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

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

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.

Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance

Researchers looked at 43 young children in a 14 to 16 month study where they measured speech-in-noise performance. 22 of the children enrolled had normal hearing while the remaining 21 had cochlear implants. The researchers recognized that children with implants had a hard time understanding speech so they introduced control and test sets which assigned participants to singing and non-singing groups.

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

The Ears Are Trained by Music

This study is just the latest in a long line of research endeavors that demonstrate the advantages of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In loud environments, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these results were corroborated by a study conducted by the Montreal Neurological Institute

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 individuals who were trained musically and those who weren’t was considerable.

Non-Musicians Were Outperformed By Musicians

When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was incorporated, the musicians significantly 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 regions found inside of the brains of the musicians.

But there’s more to the benefits of the musical training identified by Dr. Yi and Robert’s research. 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 began their musical training at a much younger age and accumulated at least ten years of musical training. This once again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.

Beethoven’s Fight With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been a problem for some of the world’s most well-known composers and musicians. Perhaps the most well-known 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 severe, was most likely the gateway for extending his musical career. Through the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, nearly completely 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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