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The phrase “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely 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 outcome of the study highlighted the impact and benefit received by exposing people to music.

Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance

Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they assessed speech-in-noise performance. Of those observed, 21 children had cochlear implants, while the remaining 22 had normal hearing ability. The researchers already knew that children with implants had a difficult time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which delegated participants to singing and non-singing groups.

The study showed a remarkable 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

This research is only the most recent in a long line of research efforts that show the merits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. A study from the Montréal Neurological Institute backed these results and suggested that musical training can enhance speech perception in loud environments.

That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, challenging each to identify speech syllables through a number of background noise levels.

In contrast to the study out of Helsinki and London, Drs. Yi and Robert’s study evaluated young adults whose ages averaged around 22-years-old. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the non-musicians and musicians.

Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians

When the noise was absent, both groups had comparable results, but when any amount of background noise was incorporated, the musicians substantially 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 research. According to the study’s conclusions, musical training strengthened the participant’s auditory-motor network, refining and uniting the auditory system and speech motor system to improve hearing.

These adult musicians in this study had all been trained when they were younger and had at least a decade of training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a profound impact.

Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss

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

The early foundation of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was most likely the gateway for prolonging his musical career. In fact, Beethoven actually lived the last 10 years of his life almost completely deaf. Incredibly, it was during the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven composed some of his most renowned 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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