The phrase “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing loss.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial effect on hearing as is highlighted by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.
The study 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.
The Ears Are Trained by Music
This research is just the latest in a long line of research efforts that illustrate the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated 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.
The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 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 absent, both groups had comparable results, but when any level of background noise was incorporated, 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 regions located inside of the brains of the musicians.
But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. 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 trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.
The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most famous composers and musicians. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to decline while he was in his late 20s.
The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was likely the conduit for extending his musical career. During the last 10 years of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most popular works.
Can children with hearing loss benefit from music and singing?