User Stories

Making New Friends Through Music And Cochlear Implants

Heinz and Walter are two amateur musicians from Austria. The two of them don’t only share a love for music, but they also both use cochlear implants. And thanks to their hearing devices, they can enjoy the world of music again.

Both Walter and Heinz lost their hearing over the course of their lives. Both of them also struggled with the fact that their hearing loss made them less independent. And they also found having conversations very difficult—at social gatherings, they felt isolated.

But it was the loss of music that hit them both the hardest. Not being able to play music and not being able to entertain people as part of their music groups was hard for both of them.

Making Music With Cochlear Implants

And that’s not all that Walter and Heinz have in common: After getting cochlear implants, both of them were eagerly looking forward to discovering their new way of enjoying music with CIs. At first, there was a feeling of disappointment. “Right after my first fitting, music didn’t sound right,” Walter recalls. His friend Heinz, who was implanted a couple of years later, agrees: “In the beginning, my accordion sounded terrible to me!”

Dedicated to Make Music Again

But giving up was not an option for these passionate musicians. When Walter worked with a MED-EL research team, he met an audiologist who is a singer herself. She was dedicated to getting the most out of the audio processor software, especially when it came to music. Thanks to her, Walter was given a special MAP for music. After many fitting sessions to finetune the MAP, he began working hard to improve his musical hearing abilities.

Thanks to this MAP and the extensive music training, I really enjoy playing music again. I like to play the violin, the guitar, and the saxophone for several hours almost daily. When the audience sings along enthusiastically, that really makes me happy.”


CI user and musician from Austria

Technology, Dedication, and Hard Work for More Music Enjoyment

Heinz also put in a lot of effort to be able to enjoy music again. With a music therapist at his clinic in Austria, at home on his own, and even with a group during a three-week rehabilitation session in Bavaria, he practiced regularly with his beloved accordion.

After lots of practice, he could finally say, “Music sounds good again!” The happiness Heinz feels when he plays at social gatherings and spreads good spirits with his music is written all over his face.

Perseverance, a strong will to start listening to music from scratch, and dedication to regular, intensive practice is essential for music enjoyment with CIs. However, there are also other important factors. The cochlear implant system needs to fulfill the technical requirements for the best possible music perception:

  • A long electrode array that stimulates the entire cochlea to cover the entire spectrum of frequencies from high to low
  • A soft, atraumatic electrode array that preserves the delicate structures of the cochlea and mimics natural sounds
  • And an advanced sound coding program that is also able to transmit even the complex details of music

But Why Does Music Matter to Cochlear Implant Users?

For CI users who did not play music or did not enjoy it very much before their implantation, music might not be such an important consideration.

However, recognizing speech melodies, emotions, and the meaning of a sentence, as well as better understanding in background noise, are some of the many benefits regular music training can have for all cochlear implant users.

Music Brings People Together

Music awakens memories and can elicit joy and happiness. In the case of Walter and Heinz, it even helped create a new friendship. At the local support group for CI users where they met, they discovered that they share a common passion: Alpine folk music.

During a short vacation with their families, they didn’t just hike—playing music was also part of the program. Their families, who still remember when Walter and Heinz couldn’t hear, enjoyed seeing them play music together.

Walter and Heinz also like to take on new challenges. Heinz recently participated in an alphorn workshop and had a great time. “The workshop was such a special experience! Especially for CI users, the alphorn is a very difficult instrument. The person who led the workshop is one of the best in this field. He also directs a few choirs, so we also sang a lot during the workshop.”

Making New Friends Through Music and Cochlear Implants

Sharing Experiences With Others

Walter now also shares his experience as music-playing and music-loving hearing implant user with others who have hearing loss. He answers questions from candidates who are curious about how music sounds with cochlear implants. And he gives personal and individual advice on how to best train listening to music with a CI.

Someone who also knows how users of hearing implants can achieve more music enjoyment is Johanna Boyer, a musicologist at MED-EL and a CI user herself. In this blog article, she shares her favorite training material, apps, and tips and tricks for music rehabilitation.

You can take a listen to these MED-EL Spotify playlists created especially for hearing implant users. From sunny summer songs and Monday motivation tunes to the best of Beethoven, there’s something for everyone.


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