For people who have hearing loss, the expression “music to my ears” may have a completely new meaning.
Exposing children to music can have a beneficial impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.
Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance
Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers observed, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.
The study 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 study is just one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and indicated that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.
That study analyzed the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through numerous background noise levels.
Unlike the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a substantial difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.
Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians
When the noise was missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any level of background noise was added, the musicians significantly outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which most likely accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.
But the advantages 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.
It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them started their musical training at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a profound impact and this again backs that fact.
Beethoven’s Bout With Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.
The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for extending his musical career. Over the last decade 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 renowned works.
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