Music training may strengthen auditory skills that help children not only in musical performance but in everyday communication. Comparisons of musicians and non-musicians across the lifespan have provided some evidence for a “musician advantage” in understanding speech in noise, although reports have been mixed. Controlled longitudinal studies are essential to disentangle effects of training from pre-existing differences, and to determine how much music training is necessary to confer benefits. We followed a cohort of elementary school children for 2 years, assessing their ability to perceive speech in noise before and after musical training. After the initial assessment, participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one group began music training right away and completed 2 years of training, while the second group waited a year and then received 1 year of music training. Outcomes provide the first longitudinal evidence that speech-in-noise perception improves after 2 years of group music training. The children were enrolled in an established and successful community-based music program and followed the standard curriculum, therefore these findings provide an important link between laboratory-based research and real-world assessment of the impact of music training on everyday communication skills.

Slater et al BBR2015