Top 5 on Music and Hearing

Best News Articles in March 2013 for Musicians with Hearing Loss

Barbie Parker, founder of LotuSIGN, interprets a Bright Eyes show at Lollapalooza in 2011.

A sign language interpreter gives the thumbs-down to Lance Armstrong’s musical talent in this month’s roundup of articles on music and hearing loss, while an audiologist takes an honest look at the validity of audiograms for musicians.

Sign Language Interpretation at Concerts

Barbie Parker is a popular American Sign Language interpreter who goes onstage at music festivals like Lollapalooza and South by Southwest, expressing not just the lyrics of songs, but the emotion and character of the music. Once at a Sheryl Crow performance where Parker was signing, according to TexasMonthly, cyclist Lance Armstrong replaced the band’s drummer for one song: “Parker let the discomfort show on her face as she imitated Armstrong’s uneven drumming. She nodded subtly to assure perplexed members of the deaf audience that she was indeed doing this on purpose.”

Learning Jazz Piano with a Hearing Loss

The Berkshire Eagle brings us the story of Mark Palardy, a 16-year-old with a hearing loss and cognitive learning disabilities who is studying jazz piano in Massachusetts. Palardy learns by listening, without sheet music. This interesting style of teaching is bolstered by the philosophy of Michael Dilthey, a music professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who says that, just as art teachers “don’t teach how to draw; they teach how to see,” music teachers should “teach students how to hear.”

The Ups and Downs of Lipreading

This powerful piece by recent Stanford graduate Rachel Kolb describes the everyday efforts of being deaf and a lipreader. Although it’s not about music, the essay provides a unique perspective on what it’s like to live in the worlds of both the hearing and the deaf. She touches on feelings of guilt, pride, awkwardness, elation, and exhaustion. “With lipreading, each day brings a moment in which I literally cannot do it anymore. I grow too tired of the guessing game that I can never quite win. The muscles behind my eyes ache from the strain.”

A Boomer Reflects on a Different Kind of Hearing Loss

In this bit of commentary for the Illinois Times, James Krohe Jr. and others of his generation remember the historic sounds of Springfield, Illinois: “The many sounds of the old main library downtown amounted to chamber music to many regular visitors.” He writes with nostalgia of the everyday noises of commerce, work, and transportation of the past—sounds that just don’t exist anymore, except in the memories of boomers.

Monitoring Hearing Loss in Classical Musicians

Many musicians experience temporary threshold shift (TTS), a temporary hearing loss that can occur after noise exposure. Audiologist Marshall Chasin says that TTS lasts for 16 to 18 hours, making it difficult for classical (and other) musicians who perform every day to recover fully. “Every musician I see is still suffering the temporary effects of some sort of music or noise exposure. Waiting for a musician to be away from music for 16 to 18 hours so that I can get a ‘valid audiogram’ is frequently unrealistic. So, if TTS is so prevalent with musicians, why even bother testing their hearing?”

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