Speech perception in noise and auditory working memory in vocalists, violinists and non musicians
Music is a highly complex sensory stimulus and is structured in several dimensions. This richness makes music an ideal tool to investigate the functioning of the human brain. Since there are many different training methods used to develop musical expertise (e.g. vocal or instrumental), these differences could lead to varying auditory processing abilities of acoustic signals. The current study aims to see if there are any differences in speech perception in noise and auditory working memory between vocalists, violinists and non-musicians. 30 participants from each of the group were subjected to speech perception in noise test (QuickSIN) and two auditory memory tests (forward and backward digit span tests). This study also aimed to study the effect of years of musical experience on the above mentioned auditory processing skills by regrouping the same 30 participants in each group (i.e., the vocalists and the violinists) into 3 sub-groups consisting of 10 participants with different music expertise (10 participants in the junior level, 10 participants in the senior level and 10 participants in the vidwath level — these levels are the levels of musical expertise/proficiency which are obtained after clearing the theory and practical exams prescribed by the governing bodies of music board in Karnataka, India).
Overall results revealed that in all the auditory processing tests (speech perception in noise and auditory working memory) musicians (both vocalists and violinists) outperformed the non-musicians. However, no significant difference was noticed between violinists and vocalists. The results of the study are in congruence with other literature report indicating musical experience as an important factor inducing enhancements in the overall auditory perceptual abilities. Further, the study results lead to the possible speculations that type of music (vocal vs. instrumental) does not influence music induced differences in the auditory processing skills. Similarly, there was no significant difference observed in the performance of the musicians with respect to the years of musical experience both in the violinists and vocalist groups.