It may seem counter-intuitive that music can help the hearing-impaired to detect sound, but that is exactly what research is discovering. In fact, scientists are finding that music and singing may help hearing-impaired children to perceive speech. That’s an important finding given the role that communication plays in early childhood learning.
The most recent body of research1 in this area was conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and University College London. Researchers studied children with cochlear implants, (an electronic device that helps children who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing to hear sounds), and the impact of music on their hearing skills. Scientists played music for the children and then measured how they perceived sound, speech, and singing. Researchers also measured how the children’s brain responses changed as the music changed.
Research concluded that the more children participated in singing and music, the better their perception of speech was in a noisy environment, i.e., hearing a teacher in a noisy classroom.
The authors of the study believe that the findings indicate the importance of music-based activities in the classroom for all students, and that parents should adopt singing and musical activities in the home, as well. And the more it can be used in everyday life, the more it can support the development of communication skills in hearing-impaired children.
How Can Hearing-Impaired Children Hear Music?
The Music Therapy Association of British Columbia2 gives a detailed explanation of how music can be heard by hearing-impaired children. The most basic explanation is that the majority of children are not totally deaf; it’s only a small percentage that cannot hear at all. Technically speaking, it is the many different frequencies of music that allow hearing-impaired children to hear it. There are many more tones and pitches in music than there are in human speech and that makes it easier for children with differing levels of hearing impairment to hear it.
The association also provides some insight into the role that singing plays in language development for hearing-impaired children. The act of singing not only encourages the child to listen carefully in order to learn the words, but also provides a vocal activity and helps to improve speech. According to the association, “Learning songs can stimulate practice in auditory discrimination, differentiating and integrating letter sounds, syllabication, and pronunciation.” The act of singing is not only enjoyable but hugely beneficial for children as it helps them to learn sentence structure while participating in a fun activity that makes it easier to learn.
Music therapy is an effective method of helping hearing-impaired children to learn communication skills and participate in the world around them. It can also give them great joy and pride in learning. That’s good for children, their development and their future.
1: Ritva Torppa, Andrew Faulkner, Teija Kujala, Minna Huotilainen, Jari Lipsanen. Developmental Links Between Speech Perception in Noise, Singing, and Cortical Processing of Music in Children with Cochlear Implants. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2018; 36 (2): 156 DOI: 10.1525/MP.2018.36.2.156 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127111009.htm