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Re: Do deaf humans (CI users) like music?

Dear list,

Living together with a congenitally profoundly deaf person has made me
aware, how much we, as well hearing people, think that music comes only
through the ears. My wife has had the advantage to be born in a hearing
family and she did therefore everything that was normal in that family, like
following piano lessons for many years. Rhythmic aspects of music come
through to her via all kinds of vibrating contact media such as the floor
and a hand bag. Of course she can enjoy the words of a song by reading or
lipreading. On top of that she has a keen feeling for how people react to
music and she appreciates very much to dance (with a preference for a wooden
floor). So I can state from close observation that a congenitally deaf
person can certainly enjoy music, even if she is not able to hear certain
essential elements such as pitch. On the other hand I can imagine that if
she would get an implant at her age the unidentifiable noises coming from
such an implant would interfere with her way of appreciating music. This is
certainly the experience of one of her sisters. I have some hesitation to
believe that following some deaf people who get an CI on early age can shed
much light on the development of music perception as we also know many
people who, while having good hearing do not have interest in and
appreciation of music.

Leon van Noorden,
Brussels, Belgium

-----Message d'origine-----
De : AUDITORY Research in Auditory Perception
[mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] De la part de Robbin Wood
Envoyé : woensdag 2 maart 2005 18:26
À : AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Objet : Re: Do deaf humans (CI users) like music?

I find the study of music (and speech) perception in congenitally deaf CI
users quite fascinating.  Studying these patients could provide a unique
perspective on the development of music and language perception.  While the
Nakata et al. (2005) study examines children ages 4-9, I am very curious
about differences in music and speech perception in congenitally deaf
patients who acquired their cochlear implants at different stages in life.
For instance, if a CI were implanted in a congenitally deaf 30-year-old,
would this patient be able to perceive, enjoy, etc. music and speech, or
would this be so far past the "critical period" that the brain's plasticity
would not be great enough to accommodate these new perceptual experiences?


Robbin A. Wood
Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience
Georgetown University
3900 Reservoir Rd., NW
Washington DC 20007
(202) 687-8449

-----Original Message-----
From: AUDITORY Research in Auditory Perception
[mailto:AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of William Cooper
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 11:28 AM
To: AUDITORY@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: 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

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