The cold hand of technology is warming hearts once again with the new series of innovative music workshops that are closely examining those aspects of music that can be appreciated by cochlear implant users via a variety of listening, computer-based activities. Operating in conjunction with the Southampton Community Music Project (SoCo), the focus of this two-year study is the investigation of how to best develop music rehabilitation materials and compositions specifically for cochlear implant users.
Cochlear implants greatly benefit those with severe-to-profound hearing loss who under normal circumstances cannot be helped by more conventional hearing aids. Up until now, however, the complex nature of music has been more or less closed to the cochlear implant user. They can hear the rhythm of the music but are unable to distinguish different notes. It is hoped this study will be able to change all that.
The key to making this new technology work lies in homework. People must practice at home. According to Professor of Music, David Nicholls, listening exercises developed by a computer tool kit will help people to distinguish and appreciate different musical sounds.
The current research is being conducted at the University of Southampton’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) and is being sponsored by a grant of $174,000 from Great Britain’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. The patients who will participate in the study are all from the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre, based at the University.
The project will conclude with a public seminar and performance at the University of Southampton. It is hoped that the challenges this important study addresses will improve the lives of so many for whom the luxury of enjoying music has eluded them through no fault of their own.