For individuals who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may take on a whole new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the impact and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. Armed with the knowledge 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.
The results showed a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This study is only the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that illustrate the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by research conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
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 non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study went on, 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 parts 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 study. The auditory motor network is refined 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 ten years of training. This once again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life nearly completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most treasured pieces came during his last 15 years.