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Music and the Deaf:

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Music and the Deaf
By Rachael Gross

               Being a music major I have found music very interesting. So I decided to expand my knowledge of music and find out how the Deaf and hard of hearing go about listening to music. I learned that in fact some Deaf can and do enjoy music and play instruments.

               Music, I believe, is a universal language. No matter where you live, gender, age, hearing, Deaf or hard of hearing, everyone can enjoy music. This to me is one of the things that makes music so beautiful.

               A very common question that arises when you talk about music and the Deaf is whether or not they can enjoy music. Well they can. They may not be able to hear but they can feel. When I was going through my music and aural theory classes, my teachers very often said, "You need to feel the music. It needs to run through your body and not just through your brain and ears". I think that this is something that a Deaf or hard of hearing person can do better. Why do I believe this? I believe this because they are so used to feeling sounds. The sense of touch or feel is more developed in them than in a hearing person. I also learned that when one sense is lacking the other senses make up for it. How are they able to feel music? They feel music through vibrations. "Deaf students showed brain activity in a golf ball-sized area, the auditory cortex, otherwise usually only active during auditory stimulation. The people with normal hearing did not show such brain activity" (University of Washington).

               Usually when we talk about music and the Deaf many times Beethoven comes into the picture. He was an amazing composer who later in his life became Deaf. It is said that he became Deaf because his father beat him on the head. Nonetheless, he was a phenomenal composer who wrote symphonies when Deaf. He did have an advantage that some Deaf people do not. He once could hear and was able to know what his music sounded like without actually having to hear it. Although he could do this, he also depended on vibrations that the piano gave when he was playing it. So just like how Beethoven felt vibrations through the piano, the Deaf can feel vibrations through the floor, wall or an instrument. As long as they can feel vibrations they can feel the rhythm of music and enjoy music just like hearing people.

               "The perception of the musical vibrations by the Deaf is likely every bit as real as the equivalent sounds, since they are ultimately processed in the same part of the brain" (WebMD). Not only can they feel rhythm they can also sometimes tell pitch. Depending on where the note vibrates in their body they can tell whether the pitch is high or low. "The low sounds I feel mainly in my legs and feet and high sounds might be particular places on my face, neck and chest"(Duchene). They may not be able to hear an exact pitch but they are able to have a general idea through the feeling of vibration.

               Not only can they feel vibrations they can also play instruments. They are able to learn music theory as long as you tap the rhythm out. That way they are able to read music. There are many programs out there for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing to join. They can join in their own orchestra just like everyone else.

               As you can see, not only can hearing people hear music and enjoy it but also Deaf and hard of hearing. Not only can they enjoy music they can also play and possibly write their own music. There are many other artists out there that are Deaf and have composed many spectacular pieces and you never know who the next may be. Music is a universal language and will continue to be for a long time.

Works Cited

Duchene, Lisa. "Why are some Deaf people able to play instruments". Research Penn State. The Pennsylvania State University. 2007. Pennsylvania State University. 3 January 2013. <>.

University Of Washington. "Brains Of Deaf People Rewire To "Hear" Music." ScienceDaily, 28 Nov. 2001. Web. 3 Jan. 2013.

WebMD Health News. "Deaf People Can ‘Feel' Music". WebMD. 3 January 2012. <>.


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