Tips & Tricks For Adults

Engage with Music with a Cochlear Implant

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your interests are. Listening to music is one of those universal experiences that almost everyone can enjoy—even if you have a cochlear implant.

Listening to Music

“Listening to music” isn’t just one single term or idea. There are lots of different aspects that come into play when someone talks about listening to music. For example:

  • Music Perception: this means how you perceive music: recognizing rhythm, pitch, timbre, and more.
  • Music Enjoyment: this means enjoying listening to music, without needing to have a specific musical education or knowledge.
  • Music Appreciation: this means having specific musical experience and knowledge to be able to describe how music sounds like “full,” “resonant,” “harmonic,” and so on.

There’s not an order to these: “appreciation” isn’t better or more important than the others. Just because you can’t identify a viola as a viola doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy listening to it. And you don’t need to have musical knowledge to say you enjoy a specific song or musical instrument. If you like it, you like it and that’s what matters.

More Music = More Fun

If you hear with a cochlear implant, and want to build your musical skills—whether it’s improving your listening skills or just enjoying music more—here’s what you need to do: engage with music.

Listening to music is just one part of “engaging” with music, and there’s so much more that you can do:

  • Listen to music, and do this frequently and actively.
  • Watch music videos, or read along with lyrics, as you’re listening.
  • Join or start a club of people who are interested in, and listen to, music.
  • Learn to sing, or play a musical instrument.
  • Use music-themed rehabilitation apps, interactive activities, or home-based programs.

Through all of these, the most important thing is to stay active and stick with it. This is because many recipients say that they don’t like listening to music after having bad experiences at the beginning of their cochlear implant hearing journey. Often, they’ll think that they can never enjoy listening to music and will just give up.

What the Research Says

A recent study1 investigated how using music training software positively affects cochlear implant recipients’ music perception abilities, speech performance and enjoyment. The participants in the study spent four weeks using the training program, and reported drastic increases in their skills.

Before using the training program, people with little musical experience said they enjoyed music at about 55%—and afterwards it jumped to over 70%.

The same group also saw increases in other areas. After using the training program, their ability to understand simple musical patterns went from about 35% to about 75% correct, and complex musical pattern scores went from 20% to about 60%.

That means that not only are people enjoying listening to music more, but they’re able to identify the nuances in different musical patterns after participating in the training program.

Listening to Music with a Cochlear Implant Can Improve Your Listening Skills

Music can be more than just fun; it can help to improve listening skills.

That’s right: music training can also help someone understand speech better, when there’s noise in the background. In the same study we talked about above, participants with little musical experience saw their ‘speech understanding in quiet’ scores improve from about 70% to about 85%. And, ‘speech understanding in noise’ was even more impressive: these scores went from about 45% correct before the training, to about 75% afterwards.1

So, not only does exposure and engagement with music help to enhance your enjoyment of music, but it can also help to improve your communication skills in everyday environments.


SUBSCRIBE to the MED-EL blog because soon we’ll share lots of tips about specific music activities that can boost your music listening skills!


This post was written with help from Janani Jeyaraman, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.



  1. Smith, L. et al. (2014): Music Rehabilitation in Adult Cochlear Implant Recipients: MusicEAR. 13th International Conference on Cochlear Implants and Other Implantable Auditory Technologies. Munich

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