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Hearing technology and music

Photo: Make music technology more accessible to deaf people

Hearing aids amplify sounds, making them audible to the wearer. They are programmed to amplify quieter sounds so that what the wearer hears always remains within their comfortable range.

Children with severe to profound deafness, who are unable to hear the full range of speech sounds with hearing aids, may instead use cochlear implants. A cochlear implant includes an internal receiver and electrode package which is surgically placed in the inner ear, and an external speech processor worn behind the ear. The speech processor converts sound into an electrical impulse which stimulates the nerves in the inner ear.

If you’re working with a child who uses hearing aids or a cochlear implant, here are a few things to consider:

  • Both modern hearing aids and cochlear implants are programmed primarily to make speech clearer. Speech and music have many differences including intensity, different frequencies, and frequency emphasis. Musical instruments typically have a much greater dynamic range and frequency range than speech. This means that hearing aids and cochlear implants do not reproduce music exactly, and that a deaf person may not experience music in the same way as a hearing person.
  • A single talker, singer or instrument is often easier for hearing aid or cochlear implant wearers to follow. Due to the limitations of hearing devices, it is more difficult for wearers to follow multiple instruments.
  • Modern hearing aids have multiple program capability and it is possible to add a program for music which alters the gain and output of the hearing aid, ensuring the volume of the device remains comfortable and therefore improving the listener’s experience of music. You could suggest that parents contact their child’s audiologist or Teacher of the Deaf for further information about using a music program on their hearing aid, technology or both to support them in enjoying music.
  • There are also lots of assistive devices which can potentially be used with hearing aids and cochlear implants to enhance a child's enjoyment of music. These include wireless (e.g. ear hooks, neckloops, Bluetooth streamers) and direct audio input devices that bring the music direct to the hearing aid and help reduce problems caused by distance and background noise.

Find out more information about hearing technology, and how you can access our technology loan service.