For people who have hearing loss, the expression “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 illustrated the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This research is just the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that illustrate the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a number 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 evaluated 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 significant.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount 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 parts 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 study. According to the study’s findings, musical training strengthened 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 studied were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and acquired at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. 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 groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life nearly completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished pieces came during his last 15 years.