For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” could have a whole new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study carried out by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers created 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 youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in loud environments.
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study evaluated young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. 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. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
It’s significant to note that while the musicians observed were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and amassed at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a profound effect and this once again supports that fact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Perhaps the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was able to hear when he was born, but that started to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be regarded as extreme by today’s standards, the foundation of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.