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Cochlear Implants Int. 2011 Feb;12(1):21-6. doi: 10.1179/146701010X12677899497399.

Identifying emotions in music through electrical hearing in deaf children using cochlear implants.

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Department of Otolaryngology, Cochlear Implant Program, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.



Cochlear implant (CI) devices are the choice of treatment for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. The CI devices provide the opportunity for children who are deaf to perceive sound by electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve, with the goal of optimizing oral communication. A natural benefit of acquiring hearing using CIs is the ability to hear, and perhaps enjoy, music. Music is a non-verbal auditory stimulus and a powerful tool for transmitting emotion. Identifying emotional cues is an important part of normal social development and communication and thus music may play an important role in establishing these skills during development. To date, it is not known whether children who use cochlear implants to hear can identify the emotional content carried in music. Our objective in the present study was to determine whether children who have been deaf from infancy and are experienced CI users have acquired the ability to identify emotion in musical phrases.


Study participants were 18 CI users (ages 7-13 years) who received right unilateral CIs (mean age at CI activation of 2.9 years) and 18 age-and gender-matched controls. Participants were asked to judge 32 brief musical excerpts as happy or sad by pointing to simple graphics of a smiling or frowning face.


Children using CIs were able to correctly distinguish happy versus sad music well above chance levels, but performed more poorly on this task than their peers with typical hearing. Age at CI activation and time since CI activation were both uncorrelated with outcome measures.


Children with CIs show the ability to perceive emotion in music but do so less accurately than typically hearing peers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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