help for hearing impaired cello student

Katherine Baird said: Dec 5, 2011
 4 posts

I have a twelve year old student who's been studying cello with me for about three years. He is severely hearing-impaired. (Hearing loss officially runs the gamut from: mild-moderate-severe-profound-complete deafness).
He has hearing aids but won't wear them because they amplify everything and makes everything sound awful and the constant ambient noise becomes unbearable. He also is embarrassed by them.
When he started he could not play in tune or correct his pitch at all. With singing at each lesson and lots of work he is now able to play his Suzuki pieces and most music fairly in tune, but it is inconsistent.
We continue o sing pitch names, match harmonics with 4th finger notes. He still does not hear the octaves as matching.
He is now entering Book 3 and I am at a loss as to how to help him. He does not know when his 3rd position Moon Over the Ruined Castle is way off. I have played the Book 2 version back to back with 3rd position version for him. I have had him try to match 3rd finger A with open A, 1st finger G with the harmonic, etc. He just doesn't hear it. He cannot keep the correct pitch in his inner hearing long enough to match the note with it.
He has done so well thus far, I do not want to give up on him.

Irene Mitchell said: Dec 6, 2011
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

Hi Katherine!
I have a 15 yr old completely deaf student in bk 3 who uses a cochlear implant.
She received the implant at two, and started violin at five. We have gone very slowly through the Suzuki repertoire, adding a plethora of supplementary material: lots of fiddling, folk songs, Harry Potter, Christmas carols, harmonies to Bk 1 pieces in first position… We use black fingerboard tapes so that she can feel rather than see them. She shifts, and does a pretty good job of nailing 3rd position. Her vibrato is coming. Her tone is beautiful, especially considering she is deaf!
This is about as far as she is going to get technically, so I want her to enjoy the wealth of repertoire at this level. She is not worried about ‘keeping up’ with other students, and is happy to just play the violin. She composes pieces and enjoys playing in our group performances.
I know implants can be adjusted so that the ambient noise is lessened… and that newer hearing aids are better at that.
I hope that helps.

Irene Mitchell

Katherine Baird said: Dec 6, 2011
 4 posts

New Comment on help for hearing impaired cello student from Irene MitchellThanks for sharing. I don’t know that a cochlear implant is an option for my student, but it’s good to know there are other success stories out there.

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 12, 2011
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I had an HOH (hard of hearing) adult student who came to me with an electric violin that she could plug into a set of headphones so that she could practice with the volume up loud enough for her but not too loud for her neighbors. Also, this takes care of the ambient noise problem—the headphones only amplify the sound of the instrument.

Also, she had a decal from on her fingerboard, and it seemed to work well enough—the frets aren’t too high to interfere with action that’s decently set-up, and yet still high enough to be felt.

They come in “see-able” and all-black versions. Perhaps you can ask the inventor/maker to create a cello version.

If you try for the electric instrument—maybe check out the Yamaha “silent” series, they seem well done, are supposed to “feel” like an acoustic in terms of shifting, etc…. although, I don’t know if they come in fractional sizes. Is the student on a full size instrument yet?

Barb said: Dec 13, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

My husband was just telling me about hearing aids with blue tooth capabilities—he knows a paramedic with one which he uses with a special stethoscope, and of course he uses it for TV, music, phone, etc. Sounds like a promising idea to get something like that to work with either a pick up or electric cello. Google cellist Erik Friedlander for mic/pick up ideas videos. Lots of folks walk around with blue tooth devices—he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed.

However, it sounds like it’s more of an issue than just volume! It sounds like you’re doing all the right things with ear training. I’d continue to work as you are, making sure to include working on that “holding a pitch” in memory.

My only experience with hearing loss in students is an adult student who already was an accomplished vocalist. It did surprise me that she could not hear whether a scale was in tune or not at first—I don’t know if it was her hearing or just that her “ear” wasn’t tuned into the cello. It improved markedly in time.

As far as hearing, I told her how some cellists “plug in” the C peg to the ear when they are in a noisy environment and have trouble hearing their instrument. Because of her hearing aid she couldn’t do that, but found that putting against the bone behind her ear really amplified it.

Best wishes!

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Katherine Baird said: Dec 15, 2011
 4 posts

Thanks a lot for your response. I will check into Erik Freidlander’s site.
Interesting to hear about your vocalist student; I do believe we can all learn to distinguish pitch. But it can be a real challenge!

Sent from my iPhone

Katherine Baird said: Dec 16, 2011
 4 posts

New Comment on help for hearing impaired cello student from RaineJenHi.

I may talk to his parents and see if this seems like a possibility. Yes, he has a full-size instrument.
I’m thinking rather than rely on stickers, tapes or marks, I want him to really hear the pitch and the resonance, but maybe that is asking too much. I’m not sure.
I like the idea of having the sound amplified so that he can really hear it without the ambient noise of hearing aids.

Rafael Videira said: Dec 20, 2011
Rafael Videira
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
West Haven, CT
24 posts

Hi Katherine! Hello everyone!

I also have a student who wears hearing aids and also uses a cochlear implant. I think this helps a lot!
I think he is doing fine so far (mid Book 1), but he is really afraid that I’ll take his tapes off the violin. I’m not very sure if he can distinguish half-steps (i think he is not able to), so I try to give him instructions so he will use kinesthetic learning as much as possible rather than just looking at the tapes.
I like the idea of using black tapes, so the student will feel it rather than look at it.
I realize that your student is far beyond where mine is but I also realize that you got some advices from other teachers in this forum.
Intonation can be tricky… when it comes to shifting, then we have a whole new world to explore for intonation, as the distance of the fingers change. I’d try working on finger patterns with the student. Explore all the patterns (12 3 4; 1 23 4; 1 2 34; 1 2 3 4) in all the positions/strings and see if the student can imprint the kinesthetic feeling of the distances on his/her brain, so this will help the intonation, as well.
Those are my 2 cents worth of opinion.

Best wishes!

Rafael Videira, DMA
Violist—Violin and Viola Instructor

Patricia said: Jan 1, 2012
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Martinsville, NJ
58 posts

I had 1 student who was completely deaf from birth—and when she got Cochlear implants—she was dying to play violin. I went very slowly… Her pitch from the G string to A was good—on the e string—it went south… I worked with her dr. to see if they could improve on the implant. (making adustments)… She got a little better—but intonation was still weak past high C. We rely on tapes for her 5th position and higher. She is now in High School—made it through Bk. 6 (even though vivaldi g minor was a handful—she only performed the 1st mvt. and the double stops in La Folia I had to change).
It is not just pitch that is tricky—rhythm can be an issue too. I have another student, who is completely deaf—has 1 implant in his right ear…. left ear can’t take one. Has been deaf since 3 yrs. old. (from a fatal disease which is why he is here now and not in his own country). His pitch is fine (he is not out of 1st position)—but his rhythm is not accurate…. I am doing alot of movement exercises with him and asking him to tap out rhythm. Some of my students feel very self conscience about speaking in front of alot of people—so if you can find other ways for them to communicate—that can help them out. I have learned some sign language to help with Vi— my student. When he comes to group—I use the sign language and the other students really love having him there since then they have something they have to watch and learn too.
Good Luck.

Barb said: Feb 4, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts
TED talk, “Charles Limb: Building the musical muscle”—Wow! very informative re cochlear implants, hearing loss, music.

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