The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people suffering from hearing impairment.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact 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
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, putting 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a tough 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, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in noisy environments.
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was missing, 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 regions of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this research.
It’s important to note that while the musicians studied were adults, they all began their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this again backs that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Perhaps the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be considered severe by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most treasured pieces came over his last 15 years.