Music heard through cochlear implants is more complex for wearers to decode than speech, leading researchers to believe that simplifying key pieces of music may be one solution.
Pitch and timbre are challenging to hear when music notes or instruments are similar, but this NPR piece, Deaf Jam: Experiencing Music Through A Cochlear Implant explains that encoding tonality into the music can enrich the resulting sound for listeners – while optimising implant listening outcomes for speakers of tonal languages like Chinese or Vietnamese.
Optimising Music For Cochlear Implant Users
Last month, the first Spotify playlist for wearers of cochlear implants, was launched by Med-El’s in-house musicologist Joanna Pätzold – herself a cochlear implant wearer.
In future years software may automatically simplify music for this population, but for now, music engineers are exploring what works for varied music genres as described with audio clips in this piece, How Can You Listen to Music When You Can’t Really Hear?
Smartphone apps will customise playlists to listeners’ preferences, regardless of whether they wear hearing devices – with some liking fewer harmonics in their music tastes.
Implications For Young Learners
Music may help to unlock speech perception in cochlear implants – a vital point for infants and children whose rhythm and reading ability is proven to be sharpened with musical training. Emotions and inflections in speech are also more easily detected by children with cochlear implants, who are exposed to music at a very young age.