Music and Hearing Loss

IMG_5766 When I got my cochlear implants, music became intolerable. I couldn’t follow a melody even if I had heard it a millions of times before. And I definitely couldn’t sing on key or find harmony. Not only did I stop playing and singing, I finally stopped listening to music altogether. Many of us with hearing loss have had the same experience. For me, it was quite unsettling.

I grew up in a musical household, and don’t really remember learning how to play the piano; seems like I’ve done it since birth. My father and grandmother played piano duets and later, he played with me and my sisters. At dinner he played records of classical music, and we’d have to identify the composer – usually Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler. We also sang, and though I don’t have a great voice, I can carry a tune and sing harmony. When my older sisters got married I asked for a piano instead of a wedding; Mom and Dad complied with my sweet Steinway upright, still given pride of place in my home for the past 47 years.

When my hearing was mild to moderate, music was still enjoyable to me. But as my hearing loss progressed to severe and then profound, music started sounding off-key and less pleasurable. I even told the piano tuner he needed to retune the instrument; it wasn’t done properly. After the second complaint, he asked if my hearing loss, and not the piano, might be the problem.

Of course it was.

Fortunately, I met Wendy Chang from Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss. She immediately encouraged me to start playing piano again. She emphasized that the more you play, the more your neural pathways remember what music used to sound like and the more pleasurable it becomes. She advised me to start with a simple tune, then move to more complex music. You might find some of her recommendations helpful, so here’s my experience.

After a lot of excuses, I got up the courage to bring music back into my life by buying a speaker for my home. The sales rep suggested listening to the sound quality of various speakers. I really couldn’t distinguish the sound quality from one speaker to the next so chose the one with the pretty blue color. (Don’t tell anyone how I made the choice!)

I then connected my speaker to Apple music through my iPhone. I know there’s a zillion ways to listen to music, but this works perfectly for me. I knew that I needed to listen to familiar music, and what’s better, or more familiar, Christmas music! When I play it, I can follow the tunes and even sing along.

And here’s the amazing part of the story. At our Christmas gathering I broke into a song (never done that before) and was told I was singing on key. They even suggested that I join a choir.

I look forward to playing the piano again and more enjoyable musical experiences in the New Year. And I wish you all wonderful hearing experiences in 2017 and a wonderful year in all ways.

 

We’re planning a workshop called “Coming to Grips with Your Hearing Loss; How to Achieve Your Best Hearing Experience” as a pilot. Think of it as our “shake-down cruise.” If you’re interested in participating as a guinea pig, please let me know right away by clicking here. The pilot will be held Saturday, January 21st and 28th at the Unitarian Church in Summit, 4 Waldon Avenue, Summit, NJ from 10:00 to 2:00. A hearing loop will be used for better hearing and refreshments will be provided.

For those of you who don’t live in my area, we’ll be scheduling video conferences workshop where you can hear and see each other talking.

The deadline for Pat’s upcoming book, The Hearing Loss Revolution: How I Lost My Hearing and Learned a New Way of Living, has been pushed back to May 2017. If you’d like us to let you know the minute it’s available subscribe here.

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10 Comments

  1. Dear Pat,
    That is wonderful and I am so happy for you! It is all the more reason to attend the HLAA conference in Salt Lake City this year. They are having and event called HLAA Stars come out on Friday Night! I am not sure of what you need to do to sign-up… but I am sure everyone would love to see a your talent! You never know what this may lead to in music arena. Please consider. At least find out what this event entails. Have a Happy New Year and I do hope to see you at some point in 2017.

  2. Pat, I am sooo happy for you!! I would not have even the faintest idea what music would sound like thru a C.I. , but I am so happy that you are “retraining your brain” to enjoy it again.!
    Say, if there is a piano at Summit Speech School, would you like me to accompany you? Just for fun? Something simple like “Let me call you sweetheart” or “You are my sunshine?” Craig

  3. Wonderful blog about music; there are ties/connections between music and deafness, as odd as that may sound. Beethoven purportedly wrote his best music after his hearing regressed to the profound levels. Other deaf musicians include: William Boyce, Ignaz Holzbauer, Bedrock Smetana, Gabriel Fauer, Ralph Vaughn Williams (from cmuse.org).

    I recall enjoying a Pink Floyd laser show at the Chapel Hill planetarium; the music was set to a laser show that was displayed across the planetarium.. I could really hear/see the notes more clearly as I followed the laser show. “Captioning” if you will.

    Watching someone play the harp helps me hear the music; almost like lip-reading, if you will. The eyes go hand-in-hand with the ears… the Chinese symbol for listening is composed of four elements: 1- Ear, 2- Eye, 3- Undivided attention, 4- Compassion/Heart… The older I get, the less I want to hear through ears alone. I want the other elements, too.

    As a late-deafened English professor, Dr. Bob Elkins once said, “As my hearing goes down, my listening goes up.”

    Music is “felt,” not just heard… and will remain a fulfilling and enriching part of our lives.

    Happy New Year to you!!! Thanks so much for sharing the blog…

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and information – love it!

      I especially love the Chinese symbol for listening is composed of four elements: 1- Ear, 2- Eye, 3- Undivided attention, 4- Compassion/Heart….

      Happy New Year to you too!

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