Meandering Through A Hearing World
Improving Your Relationship with Music
Brad Ingrao, AuD, gave an excellent presentation during a recent Zoom session hosted by The Florida State Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America. Dr. Ingrao has been in audiological practice in various states since 1992. He currently resides in Miami where he specializes in severe and profound hearing loss, cochlear implants, hearing assistive technology, and treating musicians with hearing loss.
As a jazz musician, Dr. Ingrao is knowledgeable about this very important topic. He began his lecture by stating that the biggest complaint among those wearing hearing aids and cochlear implants is their inability to enjoy music. To address this problem, Dr. Ingrao reminded us that implants and aids are designed for speech clarity and not for music. Some devices have a music setting, but he has found that most people do not experience good results even when adjustments are made to that setting. In order to hear music better, one must be willing to undergo a rehabilitation period by spending time listening to music.
People with hearing loss must understand that they will never hear music in the same way as people with normal hearing. When learning this, most go through the steps of denial, anger, sadness, and bargaining before accepting their predicament.
Given, there are ways to improve your ability to hear music. It is easier for people to regain an ability to hear music if they experienced hearing loss as adults. Dr. Ingrao suggested downloading a sound level app so you can find the correct volume at which you hear music and avoid distortion. Also, environment is important. Listening to music in a room with curtains and rugs is better than one that is open and stark. Turning the volume down on electronic instruments also helps. Dr. Ingao stated that each individual is different, and there is no one size fits all fix when it comes to music and hearing. One has to experiment with various options.
Brain training is very important when it comes to music. Dr. Ingao played several notes from the song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” on various instruments and asked us to rate how well we heard the notes. From that experiment, one might determine which instruments to start with to help our brains become accustomed to music. For instance, if you hear piano tunes best then download a song (easily found on a google search) played on the piano. Listen to that song regularly until you are satisfied with the way you hear it. Once you’ve mastered one instrument, download the same song played on another instrument and repeat the process.
Most suffering from hearing loss have trouble with lyrics. Dr. Ingao pointed out that lyrics will be difficult to follow as the music becomes the background noise drowning out the words. In order to counter act this, you must spend time listening to music without lyrics and then when you think you’ve mastered that, move on to a song with lyrics.
Dr. Ingao concluded his talk by saying that hearing loss will change how you hear music. Though you might never hear music normally, you can adapt. Listening to music daily will help you hear it better.
For further information on music and hearing loss, visit the websites of Association of Adult Musicians and The University of Iowa audiology department where extensive research has been done on music and hearing loss.