The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people who have hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had a hard time 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 remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is only one of them. In loud settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst people who were musically trained and those who weren’t was significant.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the benefits of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. The auditory motor network is refined 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 ten years of training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be regarded as severe by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life almost totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most beloved pieces came during his last 15 years.