The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people dealing with hearing impairment.
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 received by exposing people to music.
Gauging 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. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the beginning 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 remarkable 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 demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is only one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
That study analyzed 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.
The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results among people who were trained musically and those who weren’t was substantial.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate 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 a result of enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions found inside of 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.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated 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.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most renowned 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 extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned pieces.