Playing and listening to music can be a challenge to people with significant hearing loss. For some people, the sound quality is poor. Others find music noisy and confusing. They can’t make heads or tails out of things. It all sounds really bad.
Yet for other people like myself, music is quite enjoyable. Not only that, there are some people with significant hearing loss like myself who even play an instrument in a band.
So why the huge differences? Why do some people with hearing aids and cochlear implants find music to be unpleasant, while others love it? This is a huge topic that is currently being researched at Universities as we speak. Over time I will touch on many of the reasons that I am aware of, including the settings of the hearing instrument, the additional equipment you may use (e.g. FM systems), previous experience with music, musical training, and even the type of music you listen to.
One way to enjoy music is to become familiar with a certain genre. Lets take the Blues for example. What I like about the blues is that it has a certain predictable pattern we generally call the “12 Bar Blues”. Basically it uses the following pattern:
In any scale there are 7 notes we use. The most familiar would be the C scale. So in the key of C, the notes and their corresponding chords would be would be:
So if I was playing the blues in the key of C I would play 4 bars of C, then 2 bars of F, 2 bars of C again, one bar of G, one bar of F, then 2 bars of C again. I can figure this out for any key; all I need to know is what key are we playing in. So if I am having a jam session with the band mates, I just ask for the root key.
By becoming familiar with the music, my brain seems to make more sense out of it. It seems less confusing and less anarchic.
Our brains do the same thing when we are talking to one another. When we are given a familiar phrase in a familiar language, we can predict what is coming next. For example if some says ‘Please pass the salt and ______”, we pretty much know that the last word is going to be pepper. But if someone says, “We were talking about______”, the last word could be anything.
Music is also like a language. So if we stick to genres that have predictable patterns and cycles, it becomes easier to hear, enjoy, and even play.
And that’s why I like the Blues.