The phrase “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning for people who have hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial 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 principal measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 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 difficult time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which delegated 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.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is only the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that show the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by research conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which used 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 about 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst people who were musically trained and those who weren’t was significant.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t simply end there. 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 worthwhile to note that while the musicians observed were adults, they all began their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
Although Beethoven’s early childhood musical education would be considered severe by current standards, the foundation of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life nearly completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved works came during his last 15 years.