For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may take on 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 outcome of the study illustrated the effect and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers observed 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 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 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 compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.
Music Trains The Ear
There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these findings and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in noisy environments.
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 study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study evaluated young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was absent, 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 most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages of musical training revealed by 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. Musical training has a profound effect and this again supports that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Some of the world’s most famous musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. 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 extreme by today’s 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 10 years of his life almost completely deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned works.
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