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Music and Hearing Loss: Hearing Devices and Music, Testing Music Perception, Improving Music Enjoyment, Musicians and Hearing Loss, Loud Music in Restaurants

last modified on: Thu, 01/25/2024 - 15:32

Music and Hearing Loss

Photo Of Man Carrying Newborn BabySisters listening to music togetherGospel ChoirMarching BandMarine Plays Taps

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Aims of this Website 

Information from research and people with hearing loss about optimizing music:  

  • How hearing loss affects music listening and music making

  • How hearing devices (cochlear implants, hearing aids) affect music perception and enjoyment

    • CI=cochlear implants

    • HA=hearing aids

  • Tips for optimizing experiences with music 

  • Tips to improve conversations in background music

  • Tips for coping, self-efficacy and self-advocacy

  • Prevention of music-induced hearing loss


Who is this website for?  

  • People with hearing loss and their families 

  • Hearing professionals 

  • Musicians who wish to protect their hearing

  • Music therapists who work with people with hearing loss


Why is music and hearing loss important? 

Music is all around us, from cradle to grave.

  • Music affects how we feel: People use music to relax, to change their mood, or for entertainment. 

  • Music connects us with our cultures and beliefs. Music is part of cultural, spiritual, community,  and familial traditions.

  • Music connects us with others.  Participating in music with one's family and friends can increase social connection and quality of life.

  • Music brings back memories. Music can remind us of important experiences in our lives. 

  • Music is a common part of everyday life.  Music is often heard in the home and community, thus people with hearing loss are likely to encounter music every day. 

  • Music can be used to improve listening skills. Music training can contribute to rehabilitation for improving CI benefit.


Music through a cochlear implant


Hearing loss can impair music enjoyment, and reduce the quality of life. 

  • Music listening can be less pleasant.   

  • Music-making can be difficult. 

  • Hearing conversation against background music can be frustrating. 

Music in the background of a crowded restaurant


How is this website organized? 


The top of webpages are marked with the following color-coded icons, which indicate the intended reader:  


As you read this website, keep in mind the following:

  • No people with hearing loss are exactly alike. 

    • Some information may be more applicable.

    • Pick and choose the information most useful for you.

  • The word, ‘music’ refers to many different kinds of sounds.

    • Some music may be easier to understand and more pleasant for YOU. 

    • Music changes minute by minute; how good the music sounds may also change.  

    • Use trial and error to figure out what sounds best to you.

  • This website contains information based upon research studies.

    • Research studies often emphasize “average” outcomes. 

      • Your personal experience may be different from average—for better or for worse.

  • There is not a single or easy solution to ‘fixing’ musical enjoyment.

    • Different approaches help, depending upon the individual, the type of music, and the listening situation.  

    • Most cochlear implant users say that

      • restoring musical enjoyment requires effort over time, 

      • you need realistic expectations—music won't sound just like it did before hearing loss.

      •  some music and listening environments are better than others. 

Suggested readings:

Click on the links below to access the articles: 

Gfeller, K., Driscoll, V., & Schwalje, A. (2019). Adult cochlear implant recipients’ perspectives on experiences with music in everyday life: A multifaceted and dynamic phenomenon. Front. Neurosci., 13, 1-19.

Gfeller, K., Mallalieu, R. M., Mansouri, AL., McCormick, G., O’Connell, R. B., Spinowitz, J., & Turner, B. G. (2019). Practices and attitudes that enhance music engagement of adult cochlear implant users. Front. Neurosci, 13, 1-11.

Gfeller, K., Veltman, J., Mandara, R., Napoli, M. B., Smith, S., Choi, Y., ... & Nastase, A. (2022). Technological and Rehabilitative Concerns: Perspectives of Cochlear Implant Recipients Who Are Musicians. Trends in Hearing, 26. 


Click on these links for more information about hearing loss:


Click here if you wish to access some basic sources on pediatric CI users and music.

Click here to review references used in preparation of this website. 


1. All images on this website are used under Creative Commons or other licenses or have been created by the website developers.

2. Click here to access the sources of images on this page. 

+ Acknowledgment: The development of this website was supported in part by a Community Impact Grant from the University of Iowa's Office of Outreach & Engagement.