The expression “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning to people who have hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
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 study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results among those who were trained musically and those who weren’t was substantial.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had comparable 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 regions found within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
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 once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be regarded as extreme by current standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most treasured pieces came during his last 15 years.