The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect 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 kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For children in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed compared to children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. In loud settings, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these results were backed by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results among people who were musically trained and those who weren’t was considerable.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was a result of enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions located within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. According to the study’s findings, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This once again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for prolonging his musical career. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular pieces.