For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “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 activities on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a hard time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The results showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a great deal of research showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
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, 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.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. 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 regions 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 fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians observed were adults, they all began their musical training at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful effect and this once again backs that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly completely deaf. Amazingly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned works.