Have you recently received your cochlear implant and are you wondering if you will ever be able to enjoy music once again? Mary Beth shares her experience of how she returned to music with her cochlear implants.
My Hearing Loss
Hi, my name is Mary Beth and I live in northern New York. I am a bilateral CI user. My hearing loss was progressive starting at age 13, and after some time hearing aids no longer helped. I received my first cochlear implant at age 51 and received my second cochlear implant eight months later.
Importance of Music In My Life
Music has always been a big part of my life especially in school. I played piano, clarinet, and saxophone, and participated in various school bands and productions. In my musical training, I learned the importance of practice and repetition. I never realized just how much I would rely on those lessons years later with my CI.
In my 20’s, I received hearing aids. Music became more difficult as my hearing loss continued to progress. I still enjoyed listening to music, but playing music was challenging and eventually it became impossible. Not being able to play the piano was a big loss for me. I kept my piano for several years after I could no longer play, but eventually I donated it. It had become a hopeless situation.
I knew music had truly disappeared from my life while attending a wedding reception for friends. I could not even hear the beat or rhythm of the music. Sitting by and watching everyone dance and enjoy the music was a very isolating experience.
Early Weeks Post Activation
Music during the first months with a CI sounded different. I was not able to detect if two notes played on a keyboard were the same or different. However, I knew that music appreciation would improve with training, exposure, and time, just like speech did. I looked at music as its own part of my CI journey. There were three main parts to my return to music.
Part 1: Active And Passive Listening
The more I listened, the better the music sounded. My brain just needed time to figure out how to listen to music with my CIs. Going bilateral definitely boosted my music appreciation. It made music sound fuller and richer. Finding the correct pitch to sing along is so much easier now.
My music appreciation continues to improve day by day. Just recently, my family and I were out for dinner at a restaurant that had live music in their bar area that we could hear but not see. My family commented on how great the clarinet sounded. I was puzzled because it did not sound like a clarinet to me. I told them that it sounded like a muted trumpet. On the way out I peeked into the bar and it was a muted trumpet! These CIs continue to amaze me!
Part 2: Music Training Software And Apps
There are two apps that I have come across that have really helped me with musical pitch.
Auralia Pitch Comparison.
This app presents two notes and you must determine if the second note is lower in pitch, the same pitch or higher in pitch than the first note. Then the app displays the two notes on a musical staff. I still train with this app and it has definitely helped my musical pitch.
Melodic Contour Identification.
This app lets the user set the semitone difference (6 semitone difference is easiest, 1 semitone difference is most difficult). It plays five notes and you match the pattern to one of nine choices.
Part 3: Playing A Musical Instrument
After being activated for a little over a year, I was ready to return to playing the piano. Surprisingly the actual piano lesson itself is terrific aural rehab in so many ways, as I have to focus and listen to the piano teacher while I play. At one lesson my teacher and I played a duet on two different pianos across the room, back to back. It required me to play the piano, listen to the two pianos at the same time, and also listen to my teacher’s comments. I was so shocked that my CIs enabled me to hear all of that at once!
I am so thankful for the hearing my CIs provide every day. One of the greatest gifts of this new hearing is the return of music to my life. Waking up with a song in my head is such a wonderful way to start the day. Listening to music that gives me goosebumps makes me so thankful to once again enjoy the powerful emotions of music.
Thanks, Mary Beth!
Want more tips on listening to music with a cochlear implant? Check out these 10 tips for music apppreciation from a bilateral CI user and singer!