For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 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 created control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For kids in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a great deal of research revealing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is only one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were backed by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the study 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 considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate 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 areas of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all began their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most well-known musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Perhaps 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 young childhood musical education would be regarded as severe by current standards, the foundation of the training might have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. Over the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished works came during his last 15 years.