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The saying “Music to my ears” may soon have an entirely different meaning to people dealing with hearing loss.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and the University College London analyzed the effects of musical experiences on hearing loss in children and the results of the study highlighted the effect and benefit received by exposing people to music.

Gauging Speech-in-Noise Performance

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

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

The Ears Are Trained by Music

This study is only the latest in a long line of research efforts that illustrate the merits of musical training to improve 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 noisy 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.

The ages of the participants in the research by Drs. Yi and Roberts, unlike 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 absent, both groups had comparable 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 a result of enhancements to the left interior frontal and right auditory regions located inside of the brains of the musicians.

But the benefits of musical training revealed by Drs. Yi and Robert’s study don’t simply 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.

It’s significant to note that while the musicians studied were adults, they all began their musical education at a much younger age and accumulated at least a decade of musical training. This again supports the recent assessment that musical training can have a powerful impact.

Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most celebrated composers and musicians. Most notably, Ludwig van Beethoven who began to lose his hearing in his 20’s.

Although Beethoven’s early childhood musical training would be regarded as severe by today’s standards, the foundation of the training might have been the gateway to prolonging his career as a composer. Over the last decade of his life, Beethoven was, in fact, almost entirely 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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