Hearing and Music Appreciation

After reading an article an article in The Hearing Journal titled: The Importance of Music
Appreciation for CI users, I recognized the need to spend more time with my playlists. The
article so truly points out that enjoying music is necessary and even vital to some of us, and
perhaps, a quality of life issue.
Apparently, forty-two percent of newly-implanted C.I. users cannot discern pitch and
timbre and thus lose their ability to clearly hear music, particularly the subtle tones of musical
instruments. This has to do with the microelectrodes on the wire inserted into the cochlea during
implantation. There are anywhere from 8 to 24 microelectrodes, depending on the C.I.’s
manufacturer. Microelectrodes transmit electrical impulses, which stimulate the auditory nerve,
sending sound into the brain’s hearing center. The nuances of natural sounds cannot be
replicated. Thus most C.I. users complain that environmental noises, human speech, and music
sound robotic and mechanical. The author pointed out that more technological research and
better rehab methods need to be established. However, it was noted that newly-implanted
persons who listen to music during the months following implantation often regain the hearing of
fine tones and pitches in musical pieces. It was further stated that as some C.I. patients
reestablish musical hearing skills, they also experience better speech recognition.
As a hearing aid user, I took note. My husband and I enjoy music of all sorts; classical
pieces, particularly Bach and Beethoven, operas, and songs from the fifties, sixties, and
seventies. Before coronavirus hit our town, we often went to concerts and out dancing. Several
years ago, I noticed that I could no longer name that tune while kicking back with the Beatles or

the Beach Boys. To my ear, there was no difference between a French horn, a clarinet, or a
violin. In fact, all music sounded like annoying noise, the kind you’d rather tune out. It saddened
me to think I could no longer enjoy golden oldies or a symphony orchestra. It not only left a void
in my life, I knew that my husband was giving up something he relished immensely.
During a conversation with a C.I. user, I discovered that it took him over six months of
daily listening before his appreciation of music returned. After two months of dedicated
listening, he could identify a song but wasn’t sure if his recognition of the melody was from
memory. Pressing on, he started noting tonal differences when someone was singing. Eventually,
he could make out the various instruments in orchestration, leading him to believe he was
actually hearing music. It took a great deal of time and patience, he stated, and a huge leap of
faith that I would enjoy music again.
I was inspired. After purchasing a new pair of hearing aids with artificial intelligence, I
started hearing environmental sounds like the whoosh of a ceiling fan and the whir of my
washing machine. Seeing an opportunity, I began listening to music again. I’m rediscovering
musical nuances. I, too, believe I’m that actually hearing rhythms and lyrics and not just
remembering them.
As we meander through the hearing world, we should consider how important music is in
our lives. What do we miss by not hearing music? Going to concerts? Listening to favorite
tunes? Spending an evening dancing? Technology and listening sessions may help you restore
your ability the hear music. Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and cochlear implants can pair to
computers, televisions, and smartphones. Home installed hearing loops eliminate background
noise while bringing sound directly to you. Once you have the technology you need, let music
surround you and flow into your ears and brain. In the end, your listening efforts will pay off. It

did for me. I can’t wait for coronavirus restrictions to be lifted so my husband and I can once
again, spend an evening out dancing.