The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning to people who have hearing loss.
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 illustrated the effect and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, putting 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. 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.
For children in the singing group, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is only the latest in a long line of research efforts that illustrate the benefits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these findings and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
Unlike the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results among individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. 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 located inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply 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 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 accumulated at least a decade of musical training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Perhaps the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be regarded as severe by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the conduit to prolonging his career as a composer. Over the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost completely deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned works.