Music Can Help Your Hearing

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

The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning to people who have hearing loss.

Exposing children to music can have a worthwhile impact on hearing as is illustrated by a joint study conducted by the University College London and the University of Helsinki.

Measuring Speech-in-Noise Performance

Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers looked at, enrolling 43 young children in a clinical study for 14 to 17 months. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. Armed with the knowledge that the children with implants had a hard time understanding speech perception before the beginning of the study, researchers introduced 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 compared to their counterparts in the non-singing group.

Music Trains The Ear

There is a tremendous amount of research demonstrating the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing provided by musical training and this study is only one of them. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and suggested that musical training can improve speech perception in noisy environments.

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

The ages of the participants in the research 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 significant difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.

Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians

When the noise was absent, both groups had similar results, but when any level of background noise was added, the musicians substantially outperformed the non-musicians. Musicians have enhanced left interior frontal and right auditory regions of the brain which probably accounts for this ability to perform well on these tests.

But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed 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.

It’s important to note that while the musicians examined were adults, they all started their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. This again backs the recent analysis that musical training can have a profound impact.

The Impact of Hearing Loss on Beethoven

Some of the world’s most famous 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 early childhood musical training would be considered extreme by today’s standards, the foundation of the training may have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most beloved works were composed during his last 15 years.



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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