Vickers Lab
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Photo Credit: Philip Meech/ Action on Hearing Loss


Pitch perception and production in musical contexts for hearing impaired children

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If music was broken down into its components, pitch would be considered to be one of the most important aspects, because changes in pitch typically provides melody information (Chasin & Russo 2004). Hearing-impaired children may not have the same musical experiences as their normally-hearing age matched peers. Hearing instruments are fitted to improve speech perception however the signal processing approaches used vary in the ways that they deliver pitch information.

The focus of this research project is assess the impact that various interventions have on pitch perception, production and general musical development in a group of 4-9 year old children using hearing aids and or cochlear implants.

This project is being undertaken by Sian Edwards as her PhD project which is being funded by Advanced Bionics and Phonak.

The Optimization and Validation of the Musical Stages Profile Questionnaire

The Musical Stages Profile (MSP) questionnaire was developed in a pilot study (Vickers et al. 2007), It’s function was to observe and gain understanding of musical development and behaviours of young children by parental interview. This Vickers et al (2007) version of the MSP questionnaire has been used in studies assessing the impact of musical training for cochlear implanted children in Turkey (Yucel et al. 2007;Yucel et al. 2009).

The aim of this research study was to optimise, validate and determine the reliability of the MSP for future use in observing and gaining an understanding of musical development and behaviours in groups of children with and without hearing impairment. An additional aim was to derive developmental age-appropriate centile charts for the MSP questionnaire.

As a result of the study a newly optimized MSP questionnaire has been created and this is available to download here…..

This research study has been undertaken by Sian Edwards as part of her PhD study. Her PhD study is funded by Advanced Bionics and Phonak.

Musical chord discrimintation in cochlear implant users

Music perception and enjoyment is a challenging area for users of cochlear implants (CIs). The limited spectral resolution is thought to lead to impaired perception of pitch, limiting accurate perception of music (Lassaletta et al, 2008). Mirza et al (2003) found in a questionnaire study that average self-reported enjoyment of music fell dramatically post-implantation.

The cochlear implant speech processing strategy of ‘current steering’ delivers current simultaneously to two electrodes, allowing additional intermediate pitches to be perceived. This technique is employed in the Advanced Bionics HiRes 90K device, which has multiple independent current sources allowing it to create these virtual channels. This has important implications not only for the perception of pitch in cochlear implant users, but for their perception and enjoyment of music as well.

These pilot tests use the discrimination of pitch changes in musical chords to examine the pitch and music perception abilities of users of CI devices both with and without virtual channels. Results will guide further research into the role of virtual channels in the perception of pitch.

Assessing hearing aid fittings in children

This study assesses children between the age of 2 and 8 years with permanent childhood hearing loss (PCHL) fitted with 3 different amplification rationales in their hearing aids.

Assessments of speech sound detection and word recognition are carried out following 2 weeks of listening experience in each condition.

Analysis of results examines the impact of different amplification strategies across different age-bands to consider whether different ages of development may benefit from changing emphasis in the hearing aid amplification profile.

A longitudinal comparison of outcomes for hearing-impaired children with either bilateral hearing aids or bilateral cochlear implants

Photo Credit: Philip Meech/ Action on Hearing Loss

It can be difficult for parents and clinicians to decide whether a hearing-impaired child should receive cochlear implants or acoustic hearing aids. The decision is important because it is likely to affect a child's functioning at home and in school.

We are conducting a study to compare outcomes for children with two cochlear implants and children with two acoustic hearing aids. We are measuring children's listening and language skills. We will use the data to calculate, for a newly-diagnosed child with a certain degree of hearing impairment, the probability that the child would show better outcomes with cochlear implants rather than acoustic hearing aids. The study is longitudinal. Children are assessed when they join the study (aged 3-6 years) and again a year later. The results will help us to establish whether the balance of advantage between cochlear implants and hearing aids is stable over time.

Similar studies were conducted several years ago with children who used only one implant. The results of our study will provide up-to-date information that will be useful to parents, clinicians, and policy makers. The study is funded by Action on Hearing Loss and is being conducted by Rosie Lovett (UCL), Debi Vickers (UCL), and Quentin Summerfield (University of York).


The project started in March 2010. We have set up a new laboratory and completed pilot studies with children with normal and impaired hearing.

Seventy families are taking part in the main study. All families have completed the first set of assessments and we are writing research papers to describe the results. At the same time, families are coming to UCL to complete the second set of assessments.

Thank you to all of the families who are taking part in this study. The study could not happen without you and we are incredibly grateful!

Page last modified on 26 jul 12 11:40