The effects of hearing impairment on music quality perception


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Researchers in China have shown that binaural symmetrical hearing is important to achieve a high level of music quality perception in listeners with hearing impairment.

The team, working at the Department of Otolaryngology and the Institute of Hearing and Speech-Language Science, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital, Guangzhou, China set out to compare symmetrical, asymmetrical, and unilateral hearing loss (HL) on music quality perception. To do this, they enrolled 58 participants in their study. 20 had unilateral hearing loss, 20 bilateral symmetrical hearing loss, and 18 bilateral asymmetrical hearing loss. 29 normal-hearing people were also included as controls.

Three different types of music were assessed for quality in terms of ‘pleasantness’, ‘naturalness’, ‘fullness’, ‘roughness’, and ‘sharpness’. Hearing impaired participants had more difficulty in perception of music quality overall. Those with bilateral symmetrical HL rated music pleasantness and naturalness to be higher than participants with bilateral asymmetrical HL. Hearing thresholds were negatively correlated to pleasantness and naturalness perception. In addition, familiar pieces of music had higher ratings than unfamiliar pieces. The findings show that three factors affected music quality perception: symmetry of hearing loss, degree of hearing loss, and music familiarity.

According to the authors, the results of their study highlight how important it is to provide bilateral hearing assistive devices to people with asymmetrical hearing impairment, to compensate for differences in hearing between the ears.

Cai Y., et al. The effect of symmetrical and asymmetrical hearing impairment on music quality perception. European archives of oto-rhino-laryngology. 2015 Nov 26.