For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” may take on a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study 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
This research is just the latest in a long line of research efforts that show the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which examined 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
In contrast to the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. 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 benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply end there. According to the study’s findings, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. This again backs the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been an issue 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.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the gateway for extending his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life almost completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished works were composed over his last 15 years.