The expression “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from 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.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 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 results 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 study is just the latest in a long line of research initiatives that demonstrate the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, 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 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 observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory areas of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning 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 ten years of training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was most likely the gateway for extending his musical career. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.