For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could take on a whole new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London examined the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. 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 results showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for youngsters in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
This research is just the most recent in a long line of research endeavors that show the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
That study evaluated the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through numerous background noise levels.
In contrast to the study 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 significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any level of background noise was added, 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 parts located inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the advantages of musical training found from Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t just end there. The auditory motor network is refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This once again backs the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a problem 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.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered severe by current standards, the groundwork of the training may have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned works.