Music Not so Good so far

I wanted to add a post about how music is for me because this question comes up a lot.  Both from people just curious about the implant and candidates who are wondering what may lie ahead for them.

Prior to my implant I had 20-30% hearing in both ears, mainly in the lower ranges including, thankfully, a usable amount in the frequencies most common for speech.  I could enjoy music, the beat, the quality of certain voices, melody.  I couldn’t understand most lyrics and tended to prefer simpler music featuring a solo singer or melodic instrumentals.  I loved dance music, 70’s and 80’s pop, disco…

When I was doing my own research on CI’s and music, I was told that music appreciation with an implant can vary quite a bit.  Some implant recipients say it’s great and some say it’s terrible.  My older brother who had a similar hearing history as me, has not had good luck with music.

With my implant, so far, there are some things that sound “okay” such as Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” with a simple bass line beat.  (Sadly, I can’t say I care for that song very much.)  Most music sounds pretty bad to me.  I do not yet have any programs on my processor that are optimized for music so my guess is that music is being treated like speech and that just makes it sound weird because it’s not.  Certain elements in the music are accentuated and the melody and subtleties get lost.  I’ve been experimenting with different songs on my iPod and I’ve yet to figure out why certain music sounds better or worse.

I’ve talked to some implant users who say they are loving music again.  More often it seems that older familiar music sounds best to them.  In some cases, I think it’s individuals who lost hearing suddenly and have good, complete music memories ready to be reactivated.  It’s definitely somewhat of mystery though and there is much discussion and some research going on in the CI community.  Recently I saw Dr. Charles Limb speak at the Hearing Loss Association of America conference in Rhode Island.  He’s a musician, avid music fan, and a CI surgeon.  He’s also doing research on music appreciation for cochlear implant users and there’s an interesting TED talk where he discusses his work and research::  One funny moment at the conference was when he played sound files to simulate what music can sound like via a cochlear implant.  Funny because there were many CI users in the audience so how could they really evaluate?  He realized the dilemma and was a good sport about acknowledging the irony 😉

There are some aural rehab tools out there via the cochlear implant manufacturers websites.  I haven’t explored these in detail yet.  One that I’m aware of is called Hope Notes, by Cochlear America.

I hope I don’t discourage any candidates who may read this.  First of all, everyone’s experience is different.  There are so many factors that come into play.  The top priority for cochlear implant technology has been speech recognition and while I’d like music to be better speech is the most important thing for me.  Secondly, I ain’t done yet.  My journey is still in progress and my hearing is will continue to evolve, including my experience with music.  Stay tuned…