Hearing Aids for Music
The UK population listens to a vast amount of music. Data collated by the British Phonographic Industry reported over 25 billion audio streams and 122 million albums purchased in 2015, and if music video streaming is included, the figure rises to over 50 billion audio streams. Research studies in music psychology provide insight into why people listen to so much music. Music fulfils a range of functions as we go about our everyday lives including pleasure, relaxation, mood-regulation, and as a central feature of social occasions. Listening to music plays a key role in our health and well-being.
Whilst there is a growing body of literature on the prevalence and functions of music listening, very little research has focused on how levels of hearing and the use of hearing aid (HA) technology affects people’s engagement with music. People with mild, moderate, severe or even profound deafness are able to perceive music to some degree using modern HA technology, and music can form a powerful personal, social and emotional aspect of their lives, enhancing physical and psychological well-being, just as it does for people with ‘normal’ hearing. It is estimated that over 10 million people in the UK (roughly 1 in 6 people) have a hearing loss and this is predicted to rise to 14.5 million by 2031, so it is important that research starts mapping the experiences of this sub-set of the population.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘Hearing Aids for Music’, which is a collaboration between the University of Leeds and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is currently doing just that. The project is the first large-scale systematic investigation of how music listening experiences are affected by deafness and the use of HAs. By exploring links between hearing impairments, HAs and music listening behaviours, the research seeks to improve the perception of music using HA technology.
The project team have just launched a national survey, and are looking for hearing aid users (aged 18 and over) to take part. The survey asks about level of hearing, the type of HA technology used, levels of musical training, musical preferences and experiences of listening to music in a variety of contexts. A British Sign Language (BSL) version of all the information and questions is available within the survey to ensure that deaf individuals whose first language is BSL can participate.
Dr Alinka Greasley, Principal Investigator of the project, says “We are hoping to represent the views of as many hearing aid users as possible across the UK, so please consider taking part in our survey, or pass the survey link on if you don’t wear hearing aids yourself”. Gathering the views of a broad range of people, both young and old, who listen to a range of classical and popular musical styles, will help up to maximise the benefits of the results. The research findings will be used to develop advice channels for both hearing aid users and audiology practitioners in clinic to improve access to and appreciation of music.”