The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people dealing with hearing loss.
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 illustrated the effect and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 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 difficult time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The results showed an impressive 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 demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is just one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through numerous background noise levels.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study looked at young adults whose ages averaged around 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
When the noise was missing, both groups had similar 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 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 research don’t just end there. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, fine-tuning and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.
It’s important to note that while the musicians studied were adults, they all started their musical training at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. This once again backs the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.
Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Though 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. In fact, Beethoven actually spent the last decade of his life nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most popular pieces.