The expression “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For kids in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a great deal of research revealing 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 enhanced by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at 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
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory parts located within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians studied were adults, they all began their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least ten years of musical training. This once again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered severe by current standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly totally deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved pieces came over his last 15 years.