For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” could take on a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study carried out 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. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. In loud settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by research conducted 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 research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise ratios. 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 the benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t simply end there. 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 trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most well-known musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was most likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. Through the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly entirely deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most popular works.