Open Conference Systems, Acoustics Week in Canada 2015

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Performance on 2 tasks of the AIRS Test Battery of Singing Skills in Persons with Cochlear Implants
Derek Hughes, Bing-Yi Pan, Annabel J. Cohen

Last modified: 2015-10-17


Cochlear implants aim to maximize speech understanding, but to what extent do implants support musical activities?  Here we focus on singing in 4 adults (age 38, 50, 59, 73 years)  with cochlear implants  who carried out the AIRS Test Battery of Singing Skills (ATBSS) (Cohen, et al., 2009). The ATBSS taps 7 singing skills including singing a familiar song, singing a favourite song, learning a new song,  repeating melodic elements, and creating a new song. It also measures several verbal skills. The test was administered twice to 2 individuals and once to the others. Participants also completed a biographical questionnaire. One focus of analysis was singing the familiar son--in particular the 10 repetitions of the key-note (tonic).  Variability (SD) in pitch of the 10 sung tonics ranged from 1.37 to 5.88 semitones, higher than for persons with normal hearing (0.55 semitones; obtained in a separate study of 20 normal-hearing non-musicians). Mean error of the sung tonic ranged from 0.29 to 8.06 semitones, for best to poorest performance (normal hearing mean was 1.58). Analysis of contour accuracy of 3-note sequences (triads) revealed a range of systematic success or failure across participants.  Music played a role in the lives of each participant- one currently sang in a choir; another played guitar. The gap between the ability to sing with normal accuracy and the desire to make music highlights the importance of additional research to characterize further the singing abilities of those who have cochlear implants. Whether the current mismatch problems could be overcome through training remains an important question.

Cohen, A. J., Armstrong, V., Lannan, M. & Coady, J. (2009).  A protocol for cross-cultural research on acquisition of singing. Neurosciences and Music III-Disorders and Plasticity: Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1169, 112-115.