“Music produces a kind of pleasure that human nature cannot do without.” —Confucius
Everyone loves music. It is, in fact, one thing people of all ages and all backgrounds love, albeit the types of music people choose to listen to can vary greatly, but one fact remains true for all—everyone loves music. Here in America, on average people listen to some form of music four hours a day, either deliberately or in the background while working, driving, or doing some kind of activity. But what about those suffering from hearing loss. How can the millions of Americans living with hearing loss listen to music?
Can you enjoy music when you have hearing loss?
In years past, if you had hearing loss chances are the music you once listened to stopped sounding like music and instead started to sound more like noise—noise that lacked any range or complexity like the music you used to listen to. Fortunately, the technological advances of today’s hearing aids and cochlear implants make hearing a variety of instruments and voices clearer and there’s more research being done to improve how music sounds, for those with hearing loss.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Music Engineering Group are working on ways to adapt music to be better attuned for those with hearing devices and implants alike. Director of the school’s Cochlear Implant Program, Dr. Anil Lalwani, hopes there will soon be software developed that can, in essence, take an original piece of music and reconfigure it for listeners with cochlear implants.
“You don’t necessarily need the entire piece to enjoy the music,” he said in a 2016 press release. “Even though a song may have very complex layers, you can sometimes just enjoy the vocals, or you can just enjoy the instruments.”
“Our eventual goal,” said Dr. Lalwani, “is to compose music for people with cochlear implants based on what we’ve learned. Original pieces of music that will possibly have less rhythmic instruments, less reverb, possibly more vocals—something that is actually designed for them.”
In the meantime, don’t let hearing loss keep you from listening to the music you love. There are a few things you can do to help you better enjoy music—here are a few tips:
5 Tips for enjoying music when you have hearing loss
- Find out if the type of hearing aid you have has any accessories or streaming ability specifically for listening to music.
- Does your hearing device have a setting specifically for listening to music? If so, make sure you switch to the appropriate setting.
- Check that your device is fitted correctly and if you wear an earpiece, that it doesn’t slip back and forth when your jaw moves, especially when you’re singing along to your favorite song.
- If your hearing device is self-adjusting, finetune the settings until the music sounds best.
- Talk to your audiologist and find out what options are available to help you hear music better—and don’t be afraid to follow up if something isn’t working the way you think it should.