Music Can Help Your Hearing


The phrase “Music to my ears” could soon have a very different meaning to people dealing with hearing loss.

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

Evaluating Speech-in-Noise Performance

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

The study showed an impressive 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 research is only the latest in a long line of research initiatives that illustrate the benefits of musical training to enhance cognitive ability and speech processing. In noisy settings, speech perception can be improved by musical training, and these findings were corroborated by a study carried out by the Montreal Neurological Institute

That study examined the brain activity of 30 participants, 15 musicians and 15 non-musicians, asking each to identify speech syllables through a variety 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. These participants had normal hearing but there was a considerable difference in results between the musicians and the non-musicians.

Musicians Outperform Non-Musicians

When the noise was missing, both groups had similar results, but when any amount of background noise was added, the musicians substantially 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 parts located within 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.

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

Beethoven’s Battle With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss has been an issue for some of the world’s most renowned composers and musicians. Perhaps the most well-known deaf composer, Ludwig van Beethoven was born with the ability to hear, but that began to decline while he was in his late 20s.

Although Beethoven’s young childhood musical education would be considered extreme by today’s standards, the groundwork of the training might have been the conduit to extending his career as a composer. As a matter of fact, Beethoven actually lived the last decade of his life almost completely deaf. In spite of that, many of his most treasured works came over his last 15 years.


Can children with hearing loss benefit from music and singing?

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