The saying “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning for people suffering from hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile 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 principal measure researchers looked at, enrolling 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
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.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is just the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that demonstrate the benefits 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 noisy environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which used 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. While participants weren’t necessarily hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were musically trained and those who weren’t was substantial.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. 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 found within the brains of the musicians.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s study 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 a decade of training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this once again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most famous musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. 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 probably the conduit for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life almost completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most treasured works were composed during his last 15 years.
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