Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Engineering music to sound better with cochlear implants


When hearing loss becomes so severe that hearing aids no longer help, a cochlear implant not only amplifies sounds but also lets people hear speech clearly.

Music is a different story.

"I've pretty much given up listening to music and being able to enjoy it," says Prudence Garcia-Renart, a musician who gave up playing the piano a few years ago.

When hearing loss becomes so severe that hearing aids no longer help, a cochlear implant not only amplifies sounds but also lets people hear speech clearly.

Credit: Columbia University Medical Center

"I've had the implant for 15 years now and it has done so much for me. Before I got the implant, I was working but I could not use a phone, I needed somebody to take notes for me at meetings, and I couldn't have conversations with more than one person. I can now use a phone, I recognize people's voices, I go to films, but music is awful."

Cochlear implants are designed to process speech, which is a much simpler auditory signal compared with music. People with severe hearing loss also have lost auditory neurons that transmit signals to the brain.

It's not possible to tweak the settings of the implant to compensate for the loss of auditory neurons, says Anil Lalwani, MD, director of the Columbia Cochlear Implant Program. "It's unrealistic to expect people with that kind of nerve loss to process the complexity of a symphony, even with an implant."

Instead, Dr. Lalwani and members of Columbia's Cochlear Implant Music Engineering Group are trying to reengineer and simplify music to be more enjoyable for listeners with cochlear implants. "You don't necessarily need the entire piece to enjoy the music," Dr. Lalwani says. "Even though a song may have very complex layers, you can sometimes just enjoy the vocals, or you can just enjoy the instruments."

Right now the group is testing different arrangements of musical compositions to learn which parts of the music are most important for listener enjoyment. "It's not the same for somebody who has normal hearing," Dr. Lalwani says, "and that's what we have to learn."

Down the road, Dr. Lalwani thinks software will be able to take an original piece of music and reconfigure it for listeners or give the listener the ability to engineer their own music.

"Our eventual goal, though, is to compose music for people with cochlear implants based on what we've learned," Dr. Lalwani says. "Original pieces of music that will possibly have less rhythmic instruments, less reverb, possibly more vocals--something that is actually designed for them."


The study is titled, "Music Engineering as a Novel Strategy for Enhancing Music Enjoyment in the Cochlear Implant Recipient." The other contributors are: Gavriel D. Kohlberg, Dean M. Mancuso, and Divya A. Chari.

Anil K. Lalwani serves in the Medical Advisory Board of Advanced Bionics Corporation. Theauthors have no other funding, financial relationships, or conflict of interests to disclose.

Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, preclinical, and clinical research; medical and health sciences education; and patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the largest medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest faculty medical practices in the Northeast. For more information, visit or


Newsroom link:

Media Contact

Lucky Tran, Ph.D.


Lucky Tran, Ph.D. | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>