The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely different meaning to people who have hearing impairment.
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.
Evaluating 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. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For children in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This study is only the latest in a long line of research efforts that show the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud settings, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the objective of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would separate themselves as the study continued, 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 there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed 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.
It’s important to note that while the musicians observed were adults, each of them started their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least ten years of musical training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that began to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was most likely the conduit for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life nearly totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most treasured pieces came during his last 15 years.