For individuals who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” could have a completely new meaning.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young kids in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers created control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
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.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research showing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this study is only one of them. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute
That study examined 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 evaluated young adults whose ages averaged around 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 similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. It’s likely that the ability to perform well on these tests was due to enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions found inside of the brains of the musicians.
But the benefits 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 research.
These adult musicians in this study had all been educated when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. Musical training has a profound effect and this again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. 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 conduit for extending his musical career. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually spent the last 10 years of his life almost totally deaf. Despite that, many of his most cherished pieces were composed over his last 15 years.