For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may have 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 results of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers observed, putting 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
For kids in the singing group, a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
There is a great deal of research demonstrating the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is just one of them. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the objective of this study which analyzed 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
The two groups performed equally 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 areas 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 conclusions, musical training reinforced 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 educated when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. Musical training has a profound effect and this again supports that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to diminish while he was in his late 20s.
Although Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered extreme by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly entirely deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned works.