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Do deaf humans (CI users) like music?

Dear List,

The topics of the recent threads have circled around the theme of primitive
innate ability for music and its appreciation. We have discussed whether
music may or may not be preserved under different kinds of brain insults and
we have discussed whether animals are capable of hearing and appreciating

I wish to broaden this topic of discussion to a special population of
humans, deaf individuals who have been implanted with a cochlear implant
(CI) device. I think including a discussion of how this population perceives
and appreciates music would be interesting under a topic of innate musical

Briefly, a cochlear implant is an electronic device that is implanted
directly into the cochlea. It electrically stimulates the auditory nerve
giving rise the perception of sound in deaf individuals. CIs are effective
in assisting deaf individuals to hear again or in many cases for the first

CI users are either congenitally deaf or acquired deafness later in life.
The latter group acquired deafness either before learning to speak
(prelingually deaf) or after learning to speak (postlingually deaf). I want
to share some reported findings and some personal observations regarding how
these individuals perceive music.

CI users who acquired deafness postlingually tend to appreciate music less
postimplantation than before losing their hearing (Gfeller et al., 2000).


I find this to be generally true, though I have witnessed postlingually deaf
CI users who still appreciate music. An apparent commonality among these
individuals is that their level of appreciation seems to correspond with
their listening habits and success with their device.

I have also observed that CI users with congenital deafness tend to
appreciate music more than CI users who possessed hearing preimplantation
(such a comparison is yet to be substantiated). The congenitally deaf CI
users tend to be less frustrated with how the CI portrays music to them.
This, it would seem, is very likely due to the fact that, prior to
implantation, they had not heard music and therefore posses no means of

My observations seem to be consistent with findings from a recent study
investigating music perception in congenitally deaf children with CIs
(Nakata et al, 2005).


I'm wondering if subscribers to this list might comment on:

a) CI users' perception of music

b) the ability (of humans) to appreciate music having not had previous
exposure to it (truly, primitive innate ability for music and its

c) functions of brain plasticity that would enable postlingually deaf CI
users to appreciate music again, or congenitally deaf CI users to appreciate
music for the first time.

William Cooper

William B. Cooper, M.Sc., M.S.
School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
The University of Texas at Dallas