The phrase “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning to people who have hearing impairment.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study illustrated the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.
Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance
Researchers looked at 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 other 21 had cochlear implants. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had trouble understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers developed control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The results showed an impressive 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
There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the advantages to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this research is only one of them. In loud environments, speech perception can be enhanced by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute
Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.
Unlike the research out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst people who were trained musically and those who weren’t was significant.
Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians
The two groups performed equally under conditions without any noise, but the musicians would distinguish themselves as the study went on, outperforming non-musicians at all other signal-to-noise rates. 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 located within 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 study.
These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least ten years of training. Musical training has a profound impact and this again supports that fact.
The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven
Some of the world’s most distinguished musicians and composers have suffered from hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be considered severe by today’s standards, the foundation of the training may have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life nearly totally deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned pieces.
Can children with hearing loss benefit from music and singing?