Man playing acoustic guitar on a couch to improve his hearing.

The expression “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people who have hearing impairment.

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 impact and benefit received by exposing people to music.

Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance

Researchers observed 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those enrolled, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the other 22 had normal hearing ability. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty 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 a remarkable improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group versus their counterparts in the non-singing group.

Music Trains The Ear

This study is only the latest in a long line of research initiatives that show the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute

Identifying speech syllables through a variety of background noises was the goal of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.

Unlike the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study observed young adults whose ages averaged about 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a significant difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.

Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians

The two groups performed similarly under conditions with no noise, but the musicians would separate 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 parts located inside of the brains of the musicians.

But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. The auditory motor network is fine-tuned and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.

It’s significant to note that while the musicians observed were adults, each of them began their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again backs that fact.

The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven

Hearing loss has been a challenge for some of the world’s most famous composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.

The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was probably the gateway for prolonging his musical career. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly completely deaf. Despite that, many of his most beloved works were composed during his last 15 years.

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References

Can children with hearing loss benefit from music and singing?

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-12-musical-affects-speech.html

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