Speech and Song Comprehension in Quiet and Noise of Narrative, Expository and Non-semantic Sentences in Musicians and Non-musicians

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Saudi Digital Library
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It has been suggested that enhancements in auditory processing abilities as a result of years of musical training might give musicians an advantage over non-musicians in speech comprehension under challenging hearing situations, for example in noise. Additionally, it has been suggested that musicians should be able to recall sung verbal material better than non-musicians when melody is used as a mnemonic aid, considering that they should be able to exploit musical cues better. Empirical investigation of these hypotheses has yielded contradictory results. Studies aiming to address this contradiction have not revealed a consistent pattern, and the sources of the contradiction remain unclear. The current study aimed to address the role of semantic content in sentence comprehension as a potential source of the contradictory results, by including non-semantic sentences, as well as expository and narrative sentences, as previous research has suggested that these types of verbal material are comprehended differently. The present study also aimed to expand on the literature investigating the relationship between musical training and song recall by investigating whether musical training is associated with better song in noise comprehension. A total of 14 musicians and 15 non-musicians completed a sentence repetition task (SRT), where they were presented with news-like, story-like and non-semantic sentences, in a sung or spoken manner, in quiet and in noise, and were asked to repeat what they could comprehend. Additionally, musical ability, IQ and working memory (WM) were assessed. The results provided no evidence for a musician advantage and revealed that comprehension correlated with WM. Furthermore, the results suggested that while singing might enhance comprehension of narrative sentences in quiet and of expository sentences in noise, it might negatively impact comprehension of expository and non-semantic sentences in quiet. Potential explanations of these findings, limitations of the present study and future directions are discussed.
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