For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
For kids in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed compared to children in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is only one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by research conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a variety of background noise levels.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study continued, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory parts located within the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. 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 significant to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them started their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this once again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the conduit for prolonging his musical career. Through the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned pieces.