For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may take on a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty 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 a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the most recent in a long line of research efforts that illustrate the benefits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
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 amongst people who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. 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 found within the brains of the musicians.
But the advantages of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply end there. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned 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. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again supports that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be considered extreme by present standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. During the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.