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

The expression “Music to my ears” could soon have an entirely different meaning to people who have hearing loss.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London examined the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit obtained by exposing people to music.

Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance

Speech-in-noise performance was the key measure researchers looked at, putting 43 young kids in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. 22 of the children observed had normal hearing while the other 21 had cochlear implants. knowing that the children with implants had difficulty 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.

For children in the singing group, a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was revealed compared to children in the non-singing group.

The Ears Are Trained by Music

This study is only the most recent in a long line of research endeavors that show the merits of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy settings, 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 number of background noises was the goal of this study which used 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians.

The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike the Helsinki/London study, averaged 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

The two groups performed equally under conditions without any 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 found 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 refined and united to the auditory system and speech motor system by this musical training according to this study.

It’s important to note that while the musicians studied were adults, each of them started their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. Musical training has a powerful impact and this again supports that fact.

The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven

Some of the world’s most celebrated musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who started to lose his hearing in his 20’s.

Though Beethoven’s young childhood musical training would be considered severe by current standards, the groundwork of the training may have been the gateway to extending his career as a composer. During the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved works came 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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