Computer toolkit will help deaf people to enjoy music

Europe, July 14 2011

Southampton, UK:  Deaf people who have received a cochlear implant may soon be able to enjoy music better with a toolkit being developed at Southampton University. Cochlear implants allow people with severe-to-profound hearing disability, who do not substantially benefit from conventional hearing aids, to perceive and understand speech. The current technology, however, often cannot cope with the complexities of music. Now music professor David Nicholls and Dr Rachel van Besouw from the University of Southampton′s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) have won a £109,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to develop listening exercises to overcome the problem.

“Hearing people speak again changes lives but many of our patients tell us they still can′t enjoy music,” explains Dr van Besouw. “They say they can hear rhythm but have problems distinguishing notes. We want to investigate ways we can help them.” Professor Nicholls adds: “I have always been interested in how music can be used in a research environment to support people. It can encourage development and self-belief and boost self-confidence. I am sure our interdisciplinary approach to the challenge will make a real difference to our patients.”

They will be working with patients from the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre, based at the University. Through a series of innovative music workshops, in conjunction with Southampton Community Music Project (SoCo), the project will explore aspects of music that can be appreciated by cochlear implant users through a variety of listening, computer-based and practical activities. This knowledge will be used to guide the development of music rehabilitation materials and compositions specifically for cochlear implant users. The two-year project will conclude with a public seminar and performance at the University of Southampton.

“We want to build a computer toolkit of listening exercises that people can listen to at home, which will help them to distinguish, recognise and appreciate different musical sounds,” adds Professor Nicholls.


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