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MM#4 – They Can’t Hear But They Are Listening

Musical Motivator # 4

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

– written in February 1964 by Paul Simon in the aftermath of the November 22, 1963 assassination of U.S President John F. Kennedy.  It made Simon and Garfunkel’s second most popular hit after “Bridge Over Troubled Water”


Individuals who are deaf not only listen to music they appreciate it and associate emotions with it.

People who are hard of hearing sense vibration in the part of the brain that other people use for hearing and enjoy concerts and other musical events as much as their hearing peers.  These findings suggest that the experience deaf people have when ‘feeling’ music is similar to the experience other people have when hearing music.

To make the listening experience even more profound Ryerson University’s Centre of Learning Technology and the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology SMART Lab have been working on the Alternative Sensory Information Displays (ASID) project to develop a ‘musical chair’ for deaf people.

The ‘Emoti Chair’ was developed to bring musical pleasure to the deaf and hearing impaired. The chair has a multitude of build-in speakers and vibrating devices delicately calibrated to translate music and sound into movement.

One client commented that,“For the first time in my life, I could feel sad or happy because of how the music vibrations felt on my skin. I never felt those kinds of feelings before when music was played.” She goes on to saying she experienced flashbacks triggered by the vibrations of the music – a phenomenon known by hearing and non-hearing alike.

Music is a gift to all of us and when used with greater intention can reward us by decreasing our isolation and reminding us that we are all more similar than different.

I selected this video because I don’t believe you can watch it and not smile…go on I dare you….DON’T SMILE (or sing along).


Jennifer Buchanan is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy, celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011. Our “Music Speaks” Blog: 50 Musical Motivators for 2011 (MMs) aims to Help you Relax, Reflect and Remember what you Value Most


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  • 27 2009 Early screening and treatment for infants with hearing problems and the ability to computer-generate musical scores are two very different possible outcomes of some off-the-wall research…………………..See Also …… ……………………..Until recently little has been known about the perceptions humans have when they enter the world…Although adult perception has been extensively researched how or even if the brains of newborn babies perceive patterns in the world remained a mystery…That mystery has been at least partially solved by an EU-funded research project EmCAP which brought together what many would consider an unlikely consortium comprising both neuroscientists and music technologists…What project coordinator Susan Denham describes as blue-sky thinking on the part of her and her colleagues when they initially proposed the project led to experiments involving playing music to newborn babies…Scanning sleeping babies..In the experiments sleeping babies were hooked up to an encephalograph EEG an instrument able to measure brain activity using electrodes placed on the scalp…The babies were then played music to be more exact simplified tone sequences to test what sort of patterns they were sensitive to and whether they would predict what was coming next based on what had gone before…The babies were presented with sequences of sounds of different tone colour different musical instruments if you like but all of the same pitch. The experiments showed they are even sensitive to the beat in music…The bottom line is we come into the world with brains that are continually looking for patterns and telling us when there is something unexpected we should learn about says Denham…Istvn Winkler who conducted the baby research concludes this capability allows babies to learn about their environment and the important actors within it…The discoveries may be applied to developing early screening techniques and treatments for cognitive hearing problems.

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