The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely different meaning to people suffering from hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is only the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these findings and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study evaluated young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply end there. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most well-known musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered severe by today’s standards, the foundation of the training may have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most popular pieces.