For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could have a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile 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 principal measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. 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.
For children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a great deal of research demonstrating the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is only one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective 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. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly 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. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for extending his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned pieces.