The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London examined the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study illustrated the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Measuring 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 observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge 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.
For children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This study is only the most recent in a long line of research endeavors that demonstrate the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by research conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which used 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 significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-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 continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. 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 there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. 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 observed were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least ten years of musical training. Musical training has a profound effect and this once again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. 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 likely the conduit for prolonging his musical career. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned works.