Cochlear Implants and Music

The NY Times has been talking a lot about cochlear implants lately in the health section, and I wanted to clear a few things up, based on my experience.

One of the things people say about CIs is that they suck for music. This is not precisely true. Like just about EVERYTHING CI related, a lot depends on what your hearing was like before, and how much work you’re willing to put into it. Everyone is different.

I was a musician before. I am a musician after. My old CI processor pitched me sharp, and made hearing instrumental music I didn’t know sort of difficult, but I could fill in the gaps, because, after 23 years of music study, I “knew” where the tune was going to go next. My new processor is much better for new instrumental music, and vocal music.

I can learn new music. Some people, like radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, can’t. He has said in interviews that he only can “hear” the music that he knew before, and for a lot of people, this is the case. But music is such a huge part of my life, I knew I was going to have to regain this ability, and I have. For words, liner notes with CDs are a beautiful thing!

If music is a big part of your life pre-CI, you can probably recapture that with a new processor, especially as the technology improves. But I think a lot of it has to do with how your brain is wired; if you’re intensely musical, you should be able to get it back. Not so much–then, yeah, it might be well nigh impossible. But the technology is rapidly evolving, so don’t give up entirely.

Now, phones are another story…I’m still working on that. That’s been my biggest problem thus far.

Anyway, if you’re considering getting a CI, or you know people who are, don’t despair about the music.It’s much better than with a hearing aid!