Every year, new studies and research become available that shed light on how to better support the development of spoken language in children with hearing impairments. New research from the University of Helsinki has uncovered another important strategy: utilizing music.
Finnish researchers found that music benefits the brains of hearing-impaired children and supports the development of spoken language. University Logopedics and speech therapist Rita Torppa found singing to be especially beneficial. This research was conducted during the development of a music playschool designed for children using a cochlear implant.
The purpose of this music playschool is to improve the children’s perception of speech and spoken language. Based on their own research and that of others, Torppa and Minna Huotilainen, Professor of Education and brain researcher, recently published an article in the Hearing Research journal. Their findings indicate that musical activities help hearing-impaired children develop a perception of spoken language and prosody. Prosody includes rhythm and pitch variation in speech.
Arming hearing-impaired children with the skills developed and supported in music playschools like the one created by Torppa and Huotilainen can make these children’s lives easier. Huotilainen explains, “Listening to speech, for example, in noisy surroundings becomes less stressful while communicating with others and absorbing information in school and everyday life also becomes easier.” These skills are fundamental for succeeding in academics, social situations, and interpersonal relationships.
Based on the research completed by Torppa and Huotilainen, as well as others in the field, they compiled guidelines for international use for utilizing music to support the development of spoken language. These guidelines can be used by parents of hearing-impaired children, teachers, early childhood education providers, speech therapists, and other rehabilitators of children with impaired hearing. Hearing-impaired individuals may also find these guidelines helpful. Researchers prepared the guidelines in such a way that they are suitable for and applicable to everyone, regardless of the type of hearing disability.
While Torppa and Huotilainen focused on how music can be used to support the development of spoken language in hearing-impaired children, they believe music can benefit children of all abilities. Huotilainen noted that musical activities can be beneficial and can be part of high-quality learning for children with language disorders, children with developmental disabilities, and children learning Finnish as a second language. She states, “The use of musical methods in teaching intensifies learning and is in line with the results of the latest brain research.”
In addition to facilitating learning and supporting the development of spoken language, Huotilainen believes that music can also give children a voice of their own, provide them with another form of self-expression, and give them a chance to be heard in a new way. She hopes musical skills will be part of the training of all early childhood educators and basic education teachers.
If you have a child with impaired hearing, or if you would like to learn more about how music can play a role in supporting the development of spoken language, we welcome you to contact our audiologist today. We take pride in staying up to date on the latest research in the audiology field, and we are eager to care for you and your child.