I have written about this association in the past, but with this new website (and new name), I thought it would be time to remind everyone about some of the delightful volunteers associated with this group.
It is almost a given that people with hearing loss simply cannot hear everything that they need to hear in order to play and enjoy music. While there are some aspects of this simplistic statement that are true, the statement is false.
I must admit to not understanding why this is false; severely hard of hearing musicians, even with the best fit hearing aids still will not be able to hear much of the harmonic structure of their music. Yet, many can, or at least they can hear something. And many are able to play and enjoy their music.
The short answer is that music is as much of a brain phenomenon, as it is an ear phenomenon. We know that given two groups of 80 year old people who are matched for hearing loss, the musician group will be able to hear better in noise than the non-musicians. One of the best sources of this information is from Dr. Nina Kraus and perusing her website and reading her published research will be equivalent to taking a full-year graduate level course; if you have nothing better to do over the next long weekend or vacation, find a comfortable chair, a glass of wine, and go to work. On the picture of her students and collaborators, Nina is the one standing in the middle.
We don’t really understand the long answer of how musicians with a significant (peripheral) hearing loss can function and perform at the level that many of them do. We are just beginning to be aware of some of the strategies that they do use. Some involve ear training and some involve the use of assistive listening technologies.
One of the most interesting aspects of the www.musicianswithhearingloss.org website is a section called “Musicians with hearing loss” and there is a long list of hard of hearing, deaf, and deafened individulas who are accomplished musicians. There is even a link to an ensemble called Beethoven’s Nightmare .
But back to the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss. This group started as a Listserv and now is made up of an interesting assortment of hard of hearing, deaf, and deafened musicians, as well as hearing health care professionals and music educators. About half of the musicians wear a cochlear implant in at least one ear. Subscribing to their Big Tent mailing list and/or Facebook group page is free and you will receive regular emails about something new or of interest. It could be a new technology that one person has found to be useful, or it could be just a question that one person may have for others. It’s interesting to see the differences (and similarities) between how a hard of hearing musician responds to a question, and a hearing health care professional. Personally I think that I have learned more from this group, than they have from me (but don’t tell them I said that).
The Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss has published a book called Making Music with a Hearing Loss: Strategies and Stories. I, along with Dr. Brad Ingrao, helped out with the book by writing chapters on hearing, hearing aids, strategies and devices to minimize hearing loss, but the highpoint of the book (at least for me) is Chapter 4: Personal Stories and Strategies, in which eleven hard of hearing musicians write about what works for them. While one set of strategies may not be appropriate for everyone, there is a special nugget of information or technology in everyone’s story that can be taken away. You can obtain a copy of Making Music with a Hearing Loss (ISBN# 9781456586386) directly from Amazon or Createspace.
The Association is also participating in Giving Tuesday, which falls on December 1 of this year. Within the United States contributions are tax deductible through the Internal Revenue Service. Their Giving Tuesday page is http://musicianswithhearingloss.causevox.com