For individuals who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could take on a whole new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile effect 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
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
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 showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is just one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were backed by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike 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 considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. This once again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered extreme by current standards, the groundwork of the training may have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most popular works.