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

For people who have hearing loss, the phrase “music to my ears” could have a whole new meaning.

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

Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance

Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers looked at, enrolling 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. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a tough time understanding speech so they created control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.

The study showed a significant improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance for children in the singing group compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.

The Ears Are Trained by Music

There is a tremendous amount of research revealing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is just one of them. In noisy environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were backed by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute

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

The ages of the participants in the study by Drs. Yi and Roberts, in contrast to the Helsinki/London study, averaged 22 years old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.

Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians

When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was added, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. 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 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.

It’s worthwhile to note that while the musicians examined were adults, each of them started their musical training at a much younger age and acquired at least a decade of musical training. This again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.

Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss

Some of the world’s most well-known musicians and composers have struggled with hearing loss. Probably the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that started to deteriorate while he was in his late 20s.

Though Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be considered severe by current standards, the groundwork 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 almost completely deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most renowned works.

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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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