The Impact of Single-Sided Deafness upon Music Appreciation

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Abstract

Background:

Many of the world‘s population have hearing loss in one ear; current statistics indicate that up to 10% of the population may be affected. Although the detrimental impact of bilateral hearing loss, hearing aids, and cochlear implants upon music appreciation is well recognized, studies on the influence of single-sided deafness (SSD) are sparse.

Purpose:

We sought to investigate whether a single-sided hearing loss can cause problems with music appreciation, despite normal hearing in the other ear.

Research Design:

A tailored questionnaire was used to investigate music appreciation for those with SSD.

Study Sample:

We performed a retrospective survey of a population of 51 adults from a University Hospital Audiology Department SSD clinic. SSD was predominantly adult-onset sensorineural hearing loss, caused by a variety of etiologies.

Data Analysis:

Analyses were performed to assess for statistical differences between groups, for example, comparing music appreciation before and after the onset of SSD, or before and after receiving hearing aid(s).

Results:

Results demonstrated that a proportion of the population experienced significant changes to the way music sounded; music was found to sound more unnatural (75%), unpleasant (71%), and indistinct (81%) than before hearing loss. Music was reported to lack the perceptual qualities of stereo sound, and to be confounded by distortion effects and tinnitus. Such changes manifested in an altered music appreciation, with 44% of participants listening to music less often, 71% of participants enjoying music less, and 46% of participants reporting that music played a lesser role in their lives than pre-SSD. Negative effects surrounding social occasions with music were revealed, along with a strong preference for limiting background music. Hearing aids were not found to significantly ameliorate these effects.

Conclusions:

Results could be explained in part through considerations of psychoacoustic changes intrinsic to an asymmetric hearing loss and impaired auditory scene analysis. Given the prevalence of music and its capacity to influence an individual‘s well-being, results here present strong indications that the potential effects of SSD on music appreciation should be considered in a clinical context; an investigation into relevant rehabilitation techniques may prove valuable.

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