Post-Activation, Research Studies

Reflections From The Cochlear Implant Music Research Study At Jefferson University Hospital – Part 1


On May 29th I participated in my first cochlear implant research study. It was held at Jefferson University by my audiologist, Dr. Louisa Ha. The research study was to examine the different kinds of experiences cochlear implant users have with music. Most cochlear implants are made to amplify sound and give more word clarity, but not really to enhance music. Many cochlear implant users report that they have negative experiences with music. They say that music does not sound natural or pleasant to them. I, however listen to music all the time and find that it sounds much clearer, more natural, and better than ever before since getting my implant. For all of these reasons Louisa really wanted to bring me in for the study.

When I first arrived I had to fill out a bit of paperwork. This set of paperwork was basically just giving my consent to be used in study. Shortly after filling out the paperwork Louisa explained the tests to me and what I would have to do and she made sure the volume on her computer was at a comfortable level for me. Then she left the room while I took the tests.

The first test was different pitches of sound. They gave me two pitches and I had to choose which one was the higher pitch. This wasn’t too difficult. There were a few that sounded identical so I just had to guess on those. I think I did okay on this. There were probably about 30 pitches to go through and I wasn’t able to replay anything.

After I did the pitches my next test was on music melodies. This was the hardest part of the test. It played the following songs:

  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Frere Jacques
  • Old Macdonald
  • Here Comes the Bride
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Jingle Bells
  • London Bridge

Except you didn’t get to hear the songs with the words and the melodies were removed. It was like hearing the song with the tones played on a keyboard or something. It made the songs sound very weird and unrecognizable. I pretty much had to just guess on all of these as I couldn’t tell what hardly any of them were. When the test was over Louisa said this was something she struggles with too even though she doesn’t have a hearing loss.

The final test played some instruments and I had to try to identify which one was which. It used the following instruments:

  • Violin
  • Cello
  • Guitar
  • Piano
  • Trumpet
  • Clarinet
  • Flute
  • Saxophone
  • Bells

I got to play each sound before the test started to familiarize myself with them. When I did that it didn’t seem too bad but when the actual test started it was a lot harder especially since I couldn’t replay them. All of the instruments sounded very similar,and at times, identical to me. I had to really think and ask myself  “does it sound like they are blowing into an instrument here, or strumming along?” which helped sometimes. Other times I had to just guess.

I didn’t get to see my test results yet. I may get them after the study is complete, but there is no guarantee. So I don’t know how well I did yet. I was very surprised by how challenging the test was. I have been practicing a lot of sounds especially music with a program I have on my computer called Angel Sound. It has been very helpful for me with learning different sounds I never heard before or never heard properly. However, the tests used as part of the research study I found were much harder than the ones I did on Angel Sound.

Louisa re-programed the music setting I have on my cochlear implant after I finished the study. She did this so that I can get used to it during the next couple of weeks. On June 19th I am coming back to Jefferson for the second half of the study. Basically the first half sees how you do when your cochlear isn’t programmed to the settings and the second half sees how you do once exposed to the settings and prepared/used to it. So the two tests will be compared/contrasted for the overall study I’m guessing. I’d assume that the second test will be much easier than the first, but only time will tell. I’ll be sure to post an update after June 19th when I complete the second half of the study!

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