The Effect of Tactile Cues on Auditory Stream Segregation Ability of Musicians and Nonmusicians

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Difficulty perceiving music is often cited as one of the main problems facing hearing-impaired listeners. It has been suggested that musical enjoyment could be enhanced if sound information absent due to impairment is transmitted via other sensory modalities such as vision or touch. In this study, we test whether tactile cues can be used to segregate 2 interleaved melodies. Twelve musicians and 12 nonmusicians were asked to detect changes in a 4-note repeated melody interleaved with a random melody. In order to perform this task, the listener must be able to segregate the target melody from the random melody. Tactile cues were applied to the listener’s fingers on half of the blocks. Results showed that tactile cues can significantly improve the melodic segregation ability in both musician and nonmusician groups in challenging listening conditions. Overall, the musician group performance was always better; however, the magnitude of improvement with the introduction of tactile cues was similar in both groups. This study suggests that hearing-impaired listeners could potentially benefit from a system transmitting such information via a tactile modality.

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