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The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have a very different meaning for people suffering from hearing impairment.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London evaluated the effects of musical activities on hearing loss in children and the outcome of the study illustrated the effect 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. 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.

For children in the singing group, an impressive improvement in awareness and speech-in-noise performance was observed in comparison with children in the non-singing group.

The Ears Are Trained by Music

This research is just the most recent in a long line of research initiatives that illustrate the advantages of musical training to improve cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute corroborated these results and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.

Identifying speech syllables through a number of background noises was the goal of this study which analyzed 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. While participants weren’t always hearing impaired, the difference in results amongst those who were musically trained and those who weren’t was considerable.

Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians

When the noise was missing, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount of background noise was incorporated, 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 there’s more to the benefits of the musical training revealed by Dr. Yi and Robert’s study. According to the study’s findings, musical training reinforced the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.

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

The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven

Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most distinguished composers and musicians. Probably the most famous deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to diminish while he was in his late 20s.

The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though extreme, was most likely the gateway for extending his musical career. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly entirely deaf. Amazingly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote some of his most popular pieces.

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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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