For individuals who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may take on a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the effect and benefit received 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 assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a hard time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For kids in the singing group, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that show the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and indicated that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, the musicians significantly 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 regions found inside of the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. According to the study’s findings, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians observed were adults, each of them started their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this once again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Perhaps the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for prolonging his musical career. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular pieces.