The CI was developed for speech. That's why the ear piece behind my ear is called a speech processor. Music, in all its richness and subtle nuances of tones and undertones, is distinctly different through the speech processor -- noisy and tinny, the speech processor is essentially unable to reproduce much of the tonal qualities that makes music what it is. Or at least what it is to me.
At the risk of igniting a firestorm of disagreement from other cochlear implant recipients who swear that music is a great source of enjoyment for them, I have to say that being late deafened and having been classically trained as a vocalist, and still pretty new at this whole CI thing, I have found music to be unequivocally..., well..... it's plain awful.
I've been told that it will get better with ear training and music listening exercises. My audiologist even suggested that I should begin listening to music and bearing with it even if it sounded terrible. So I subscribed to music therapy to try to improve my music experience. Contrary to much of the lay advice I've heard, my music therapy involves "fresh" listening instead of listening to known songs twenty or thirty times until my brain recognizes it -- music with strong melodies sung by solo artists with instrumentals that are not amplified (my apologies to the electric guitar aficionados out there), and listening without regard to lyrics. One tip is to listen to various art songs in foreign languages so that I would focus on the melody of the song and not be distracted trying to figure out the words. So far, it hasn't worked miracles for me.
So, this afternoon, I cranked up the volume on my car's CD player and took a road trip. With my better ear plugged and my windows rattling, I listened to Josh Groban's CD "All That Echoes" as I careened down the highway. I am a fan of all things Josh Groban, and I knew he was a soloist with lush orchestration accompanying his voice. Nothing Van Halen-ish.
It was mostly non-descript. Not as bad as listening has been in the past, but certainly not great. I didn't think anything could ruin Josh Groban, but, let's just say, my CI wasn't doing him any favors.
Then it happened. Just as it had been when I heard my husband's voice yesterday, it was a sudden revelation. I could hear the song. Not just the words and the voice, but the melody and the instruments. The whole song. (Now mind you, it's not like hearing it through a normal ear, but it was most certainly an enormous improvement from the clutter of noise that music has been since my CI.)
I became engulfed in "Happy in My Heartache" and found my head bee-bopping and my voice humming along. Here's that little ditty, my first CI song: Happy in My Heartache (click to listen, and see if you bee-bop, too.)
Though Josh Groban is singing of love lost, this little song will have a deeper meaning for me. My hearing loss has been a heartache. But unlike the song, I can find happy in it. It's the first song I've heard post cochlear implant that actually sounded like, well, like music. And it makes me happy.