A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that musical training helps people hear speech syllables in loud environments, and has shown how this happens. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers Yi Du and Robert Zatorre monitored brain function as musicians and non-musicians listened to speech fragments and varying background noise levels.
They found musicians could distinguish speech sounds better, because of better encoding in both auditory and speech motor regions. Musicians showed stronger cross-modal auditory–motor integration than non-musicians when processing speech, especially in noisy conditions. Therefore the musical advantage stems both from better auditory processing of the speech signal, as well as better representation of the motor aspect of speech.
This finding has clinical implications because problems hearing speech in noisy environments are characteristic of the elderly, and children with certain learning disabilities.
“Musical training sharpens and bonds ears and tongue to hear speech better” Yi Du, Robert Zatorre.