For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” could have a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained 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 measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 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 assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The results showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is just one of them. In loud settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 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 missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any level of background noise was added, 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 located within 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 conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. Musical training has a profound effect and this once again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Probably 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.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered extreme by current standards, the foundation of the training may have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved works were composed over his last 15 years.