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How to Enjoy New Music With Hearing Loss

Reading the lyrics can help your brain pick them out in new songs.

Key points

  • It can be challenging to enjoy new music when you have hearing loss.
  • We hear with our brains, not just our ears.
  • Reading the lyrics of a song can help your brain better pick them out from the background music.
Source: Jair Medina Nossa / Unsplash
Source: Jair Medina Nossa / Unsplash

Music and hearing loss are sometimes a difficult combination. Depending on the severity and frequencies of the loss, music can sound distorted or have gaps in the sound. It can be tinny or thin as notes are digitally compressed by our hearing devices. My favorite songs tend to be the ones I knew and loved early in my hearing loss journey because once I recognize the song, my brain fills in whatever gaps my ears miss. Sometimes, I can even identify songs before my family can. I guess I have more practice making sense of incomplete sounds. We truly do hear with our brains, not our ears.

Even when I can hear the tune and feel the beat of a song, the lyrics often remain a blur—sounding more like mumbling or humming than distinct words. But I recently found a solution to this problem: Read the lyrics.

Reading the Lyrics Helped Me Enjoy New Music

Understanding songs on the radio is often a challenge for me. My family sings along to the latest music, and I feel a little bit lost. “Do you like this song?” they ask me, but I am not sure how to answer. I enjoy the beat and tune of many popular songs, but I hardly ever understand the lyrics. So, yes, I like the music, but I am less certain if I like the song.

This happened a few years ago with a Taylor Swift track from her new album. Taylor made good use of her quarantine, creating and launching a new album called Folklore. It has very simple accompaniment—only piano and guitar—so the lyrics take center stage. The songs link together telling one larger story of a love triangle that plays out across time and as told from different perspectives. Classic Taylor Swift, with an added kicker, but I couldn’t understand a word.

Maybe it was due to the breathy quality of the songs, or maybe the newness of the acoustic-like sound, or maybe isolation has taken a toll on my hearing. Either way, I was disappointed because I am a big Taylor Swift fan. But then I decided to search online for the lyrics. Reading them as I listened to the music helped me “hear” the words, and after a few times doing this, I imprinted the lyrics into my brain. After that, whenever I hear these new songs, muscle memory kicks in, and I can sing along, too.

Copyright: Living With Hearing Loss/Shari Eberts. Reprinted with permission.

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