For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London assessed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those observed, 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 introduced control and test sets which assigned 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 versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to 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 level of background noise was added, 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 there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians studied were adults, they all started their musical training at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. Musical training has a profound impact and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Perhaps the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered extreme by present standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned pieces.