The phrase “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning for people who have hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile 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 looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. 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 results showed an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is only the latest in a long line of research endeavors that show the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through numerous background noise levels.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. While participants weren’t necessarily hearing impaired, the difference in results among people who were musically trained and those who weren’t was significant.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions found within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them began their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a profound effect and this once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most famous musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was likely the conduit for extending his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved works were composed over his last 15 years.