For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may have a whole new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London examined the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study showed an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children 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 endeavors that show the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any amount 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 parts found within the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just 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 study.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them began their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was likely the gateway for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.