For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may take on a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. 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 kids in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed compared to children 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 just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which probably 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 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 worthwhile to note that while the musicians observed were adults, they all began their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least ten years of musical training. This again backs the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Perhaps the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for prolonging his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular pieces.