Music Perception for Cochlear Implant Users

A Web Conference for Musicians with Hearing Loss

By bypassing the damaged sensory hair cells in the inner ear, cochlear implants can provide people living with severe to profound hearing loss with a sense of sound. But do they bring (or bring back, for some) a sense of music?

One young pianist named Holly explains her experience perceiving sound and music through her implants in this clip from the documentary Lost and Sound: she can sense the difference between pitches, and hear certain pitches better than others, even though the notes seem more like vibrations than actual sounds.

Music perception is so much more complex than speech perception that cochlear implant users, after implantation, often have to learn or relearn to listen to music. Despite the challenges, plenty of cochlear implant wearers are dedicated musicians—such as Wendy Cheng (who plays viola) and other members of the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL), which she founded.

On September 7, 2013, anyone interested can participate in an exchange of ideas on the topic, in the form of a web conference organized by AAMHL and titled Learning and Making Music with a Hearing Loss: Issues for Cochlear Implant Users. Specific topics to be discussed include perception of musical intervals, various forms of music participation (solo and chamber musicians, music teachers, etc.), and music rehabilitation.

Some of the presenters are researchers in the field, but Wendy Cheng stresses, “You will not need a degree in hearing science to understand the presentations. We have been fortunate to find presenters who are willing to use layman terms”—setting this conference apart from the many forums for scientists and experts to present their findings in technical terms.

Several of the other presenters and panelists are musicians (a guitarist, a saxophonist, a pianist/organist, a band director, a composer) who use cochlear implants. No doubt they all have their own ways of describing their musical experiences—and inspiring others with hearing loss and implants to continue pursuing music.

The web conference will take place on September 7 at 1:00pm EST. Visit the event page to learn more and register.

Copyright © 2018 Nancy M. Williams. All Rights Reserved.

1 Comment

  1. II was unaware that there were organizations for this. Do you guys meet regularly or on line? I wear two Ponto Processors both ears. I teach kids piano and perform as well. Would love to other children who are in my similar situation piano as well.

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