Music plays an important role in many of our lives. It helps motivate us, comfort us in times of sorrow and bring a sense of calm and peace in the middle of a stressful day.
People who need to use cochlear implants for severe to profound hearing loss may worry that enjoying music may not be possible for them. However, a new study from the University of Southern California shows that might not be the case.
What Is a Cochlear Implant?
Cochlear implants are devices that are surgically implanted behind the ear. They do contain an external portion, which consists of a microphone, sound processor and transmitter. The internal portion includes a receiver and a group of electrodes.
Instead of amplifying sounds the way that hearing aids do, cochlear implants bypass the ears and generate electrical signals that the brain interprets as sound.
Cochlear implants are a remarkable device that can significantly improve hearing ability for those who have hearing loss and aren’t helped by hearing aids. However, they currently cannot restore hearing to be as precise as it is for individuals with normal hearing.
Appreciating the Complexity of Music Using Cochlear Implants
Dr. Raymond Goldsworthy, head of the Bionic Ear Lab in the USC Caruso Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, was 13 when he lost his hearing due to spinal meningitis. As a life-long music lover, Dr. Goldsworthy has spent many years researching ways to improve the music-listening experience for fellow cochlear implant users.
In his recent study, published in 2022, Dr. Goldsworthy and his team sought to find out how cochlear implant users perceive harmony by playing two notes at once and asking participants to rate what they heard on a scale of pleasantness. The study also had participants with normal hearing and also collected data about the participant’s level of music sophistication.
Previous research had indicated that people with cochlear implants would have significant difficulty differentiating between pleasant and discordant sounds. However, the results of this study were surprising and encouraging.
Though the average cochlear implant user had a more difficult time perceiving different sounds than the average normal-hearing participant, cochlear implant users with a high degree of music sophistication were able to differentiate at the same level as average normal hearing participants.
In an interview about the study, Dr. Goldsworthy said, “Cochlear implant users can improve their music appreciation by bravely diving into music, but there is also plenty of room to improve how sound is encoded into stimulation to allow recipients to dive even deeper.”
If you love going to concerts or finding new music to listen to at Breakaway Records, know that you can still enjoy the music while using a cochlear implant.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call River ENT today.