For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could have a whole new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a hard time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This study is just the most recent in a long line of research endeavors that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these findings and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians substantially 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 the advantages 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.
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 powerful impact and this once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was likely the conduit for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.