Research from the field of music psychology – a sub-discipline of psychology – has revealed a lot about how people engage with music. This includes musical performance by trained musicians but also everyday music listening. The focus, however, has primarily been on people with ‘normal’ hearing. Very little is known about how deafness or hearing impairments affect music listening experiences, especially for hearing aid users.
The project research team met at the launch of the ‘Music Mind Machine’ research group at Sheffield in November 2012. A research proposal was subsequently created and accepted for funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in November 2014 (Grant number: AH/M00368X/1).
The project represents the first large-scale, systematic investigation of how music listening is affected by hearing aid technology. Social-psychological research methods including surveys and interviews have been used to explore patterns and preferences of music listening behaviour within representative samples from the UK population of hearing aid users. Data from clinical audiology has also been collected to explore how levels and types of deafness and hearing aids affect music listening experiences.
A short clinical survey was launched in April 2015 and a follow-on interview study was completed at the start of 2016. In-depth discussions were held with a small, balanced sample of hearing aid users to explore their experiences. Participants also took hearing tests, providing up-to-date audiometric data to help the team interpret the results. In 2016, a large, national, web-based survey was launched which aims to produce enough data to explore wider trends within, and between, hearing aid user groups. During the last two years, we have joined forces with >30 NHS Trusts to collect data from a representative sample of hearing aid users across the country.
A project conference took place in Leeds September 14-15, 2017.
The purpose of the conference was to bring together hearing aid users, researchers, audiologists and manufacturers to examine current issues and potential solutions in the perception of music through hearing aids. Though originally proposed as a national conference, the event was truly international in reach. Academic specialists in music and deafness attended from around the globe (including US, Canada, AU, NZ and Europe), and 120 delegates attended including audiology patients and their carers, audiology practitioners, hearing aid manufacturers and researchers, ENT surgeons, hearing therapists and musicians. Feedback from the conference highlighted both the success of the conference itself, and the need for further research to be done in this area. Presentations were interpreted live (in British or International Sign Language, depending on audience preferences), were live captioned to screen, and were supported by a lip-reading camera in addition. The main conference room was fitted with a large hearing loop, and breakout sessions reinforced presentations using additional soundfield systems. Materials from the conference have been made available online (including abstracts, presentation slides and 10 fully captioned videos, click here). This includes an archive of the concert given by a group of deaf musicians which was live streamed during the conference itself. The conference has sparked debate and will undoubtedly lead to future collaborations with other academics, practitioners and device manufacturers interested in enhancing the experience of music listening and performance with hearing aids.
We are currently focusing on the outputs of the project. This includes academic publications (in progress), industry articles and advice leaflets for hearing aids and audiologists that are freely available here. If you have any feedback on the materials, we would love to hear from you.
The team hope to raise awareness of the project via the twitter feed ‘@musicndeafness’ and this website. If you would like to get in touch for any reason or to take part in the research, please do email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.