terptree: Music to deaf ears

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Music to deaf ears

It comes as a surprise to most people that deaf people can enjoy music too. Common sense tells us that, if a person is deaf, they can’t hear music and enjoy it.

But there are loads of ways to improve deaf access to music and help people enjoy and understand it as much as the hearing population. We’ve compiled a short list of techniques and ways to connect deaf people with music.

Feel the music

The most successful techniques are relatively new and let deaf people ‘hear’ the music through certain frequencies and vibrations. Scientists have found that the part of the brain most people use for hearing and processing sound is able to process vibrations that deaf people are exposed to and let them understand the music this way.

A Canadian university has developed a chair that lets you ‘hear’ the rhythm of the music using your skin.

In the past deaf people have ‘heard’ music by holding a hand to the speaker and feeling the vibrations of the bass but this new chair has 16 in-built speakers and scientists claim deaf people can feel the frequencies of several instruments using their skin.

Hook up your MP3 player

If you saw asked people to name the group most unlikely to have an iPod, they’d be guaranteed to say the deaf community.

But while it sounds odd, many deaf people have cochlear implants which you can plug your iPod into the back of using a special cable. There’s a guide on how to do it here

Sign the music

A less technological approach is to simply sign the lyrics of the music and convey a sense of rhythm. Whilst basic this still gives deaf people better access to music.

A short and amusing example below

However, some choose to push the boundaries and try and introduce additional emotions and musical meaning whilst signing lyrics.

The latest is from the inspirational Dr Paul Whittaker who’s profoundly deaf. He’s a trained musician and has developed a way to interpret music through BSL, showing not only the lyrics but also the emotion and rhythm of a piece.

This BBC News video (with BSL interpreter) follows the story.

If you know any other ways of communicating music to deaf people or making it more accessible leave a comment

1 comment:

Allison said...

Thanks for the linkback to my post!

I actually have new technology that I use now for my cochlear implant. I should update that too!

I'll let you know!

~Allison from bionically.wordpress.com