Music Appreciation of Adult Hearing Aid Users and the Impact of Different Levels of Hearing Loss

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Abstract

Objectives:

The main aim of this study was to collect information on music listening and music appreciation from postlingually deafened adults who use hearing aids (HAs). It also sought to investigate whether there were any differences in music ratings from HA users with different levels of hearing loss (HL; mild, versus moderate to moderately-severe, versus severe or worse.

Design:

An existing published questionnaire developed for cochlear implant recipients was modified for this study. It had 51 questions divided into seven sections: (1) music listening and music background; (2) sound quality; (3) musical styles; (4) music preferences; (5) music recognition; (6) factors affecting music listening enjoyment; and (7) music training program. The questionnaire was posted out to adult HA users, who were subsequently divided into three groups: (i) HA users with a mild HL (Mild group); (ii) HA users with a moderate to moderately-severe HL (Moderate group); and (iii) HA users with a severe or worse (Severe group) HL.

Results:

One hundred eleven questionnaires were completed; of these, 51 participants had a mild HL, 42 had a moderate to moderately-severe loss, and 18 a severe or worse loss. Overall, there were some significant differences noted, predominantly between the Mild and Severe groups, with fewer differences between the Mild and Moderate groups. The respondents with the greater levels of HL reported a greater reduction in their music enjoyment as a result of their HL and that HAs made music sound significantly less melodic for them. It was also observed that the Severe group’s mean scores for both the pleasant rating as well as the combined rating for the six different musical styles were lower than both the Mild and Moderate groups’ ratings for every style, with just one exception (pop/rock pleasantness rating). There were significant differences between the three groups for the styles of music that were reported to sound the best with HA(s), as well as differences between the ratings on more specific timbre rating scales used to rate different elements of each style. In rating the pleasantness and naturalness of different musical instruments or instrumental groups, there was no difference between the groups. There were also significant differences between the Mild and Severe groups in relation to musical preferences for the pitch range of music, with the Severe group significantly preferring male singers and lower pitched instruments.

Conclusions:

The overall results indicated little difference in music appreciation between those with a mild versus moderate loss. However, poorer appreciation scores were given by those with a severe or worse HL. This would suggest that HAs or HL have a negative impact on music listening, particularly when the HL becomes more significant. There was a large degree of variability in ratings, though, with music listening being satisfactory for some listeners and largely unsatisfactory for others, in all three groups. Music listening preferences also varied significantly, and the reported benefit (or otherwise) provided by the HA for music was also mixed. The overriding variability in listening preferences and ratings leads to the question as to the benefit and effectiveness of generic, manufacturer-derived music programs on HAs. Despite the heterogeneity in the listening habits, preferences, and ratings, it is clear that music appreciation and enjoyment is still challenging for many HA users and that level of HL is one, but not the only factor that impacts on music appreciation.

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