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The University of Southampton

Technology provides new ways of appreciating music

Published: 24 September 2010Origin: Music

Music has teamed up with the University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) to explore ways of helping deaf people, who have undergone cochlear implants

Professor David Nicholls from Music and Dr Rachel van Besouw from ISVR have secured a £109,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to work with patients from the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre, based at the University.

Cochlear implants are invaluable in aiding people with severe-to-profound hearing loss to perceive and understand speech, but the current technology often cannot cope with the complexities of music. More than 600 people have been given cochlear implants at Southampton.

“Hearing people speak again changes lives but many of our patients tell us they still can’t enjoy music,”  explains Rachel. “They say they can hear rhythm but have problems distinguishing notes. We want to investigate ways we can help them.”

“I have always been interested in how music can be used in a research environment to support people,”  says David. “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.”

An exploratory workshop has already been held at the University. Student volunteers played a variety of musical instruments to around 30 people with cochlear implants; one woman was amazed and delighted to be able to hear the sound of a flute again.

“We want to build a computer tool kit of listening exercises that people can listen to at home, which will help them to distinguish, recognise and appreciate different musical sounds,” says David.

A research assistant has been recruited to develop the programme and work with colleagues across the University and from the Southampton Community Music Project.

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