For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London assessed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study illustrated the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the principal measure researchers looked at, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
For children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This research is only the latest in a long line of research efforts that show the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud settings, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these results were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. While participants weren’t necessarily hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst individuals who were trained musically and those who weren’t was considerable.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t simply end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
It’s important to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. Musical training has a profound effect and this again backs that fact.
The Affect 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.
Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be regarded as severe by present standards, the foundation of the training may have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. Through the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. In spite of that, many of his most treasured works were composed over his last 15 years.