With Cochlear Implants, Music Is Harder To Hear Than You Think

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Cochlear implants can help the deaf hear speech.

Since the 1970's, more than 200,000 people have received cochlear implants, which allow deaf patients to hear speech, and sometimes even talk. But not all auditory signals are created alike: While people with cochlear implants can hear speech, those patients can't hear music.

But now, a team from the University of Washington is making strides towards changing this: They've developed an algorithm for existing cochlear implants that allows them to process some of the building blocks of music, namely, pitch and timbre. 

In an interview with Soundcheck host John Schaefer, Johns Hopkins' professor Dr. Charles Limb explains why music is harder to process than speech, why cochlear implants aren't a silver bullet, and how even with the newest cochlear implants, music still won't sound quite the way you expect.