For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” could have a whole new meaning.
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.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty 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 children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is only the latest in a long line of research efforts that illustrate the merits of musical training to enhance 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.
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. 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 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 a result of enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions located within the brains of the musicians.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned 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 education at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. This again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the conduit for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly completely deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned pieces.