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

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

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

Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance

Speech-in-noise performance was the main measure researchers observed, 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 start of the study, researchers introduced control and test sets, assigning participants to a non-singing (control) and singing (test) group.

For kids 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

There is a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits to cognitive ability and speech processing offered by musical training and this research is only one of them. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by research carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute

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

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 significant difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.

Musicians Outperform Non-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 ratios. 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 the benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s research don’t just end there. 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 ten years of training. This once again supports the recent analysis that musical training can have a powerful impact.

The Affect of Hearing Loss on Beethoven

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

The early groundwork of Beethoven’s training, though severe, was probably the gateway for extending his musical career. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly totally deaf. Incredibly, it was over the last 15 years of his life that Beethoven wrote 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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