Experience changes how emotion in music is judged: Evidence from children listening with bilateral cochlear implants, bimodal devices, and normal hearing

Sara Giannantonio, Melissa J. Polonenko, Blake C. Papsin, Gaetano Paludetti, Karen A. Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Children using unilateral cochlear implants abnormally rely on tempo rather than mode cues to distinguish whether a musical piece is happy or sad. This led us to question how this judgment is affected by the type of experience in early auditory development. We hypothesized that judgments of the emotional content of music would vary by the type and duration of access to sound in early life due to deafness, altered perception of musical cues through new ways of using auditory prostheses bilaterally, and formal music training during childhood. Seventy-five participants completed the Montreal Emotion Identification Test. Thirty-three had normal hearing (aged 6.6 to 40.0 years) and 42 children had hearing loss and used bilateral auditory prostheses (31 bilaterally implanted and 11 unilaterally implanted with contralateral hearing aid use). Reaction time and accuracy were measured. Accurate judgment of emotion in music was achieved across ages and musical experience. Musical training accentuated the reliance on mode cues which developed with age in the normal hearing group. Degrading pitch cues through cochlear implant-mediated hearing induced greater reliance on tempo cues, but mode cues grew in salience when at least partial acoustic information was available through some residual hearing in the contralateral ear. Finally, when pitch cues were experimentally distorted to represent cochlear implant hearing, individuals with normal hearing (including those with musical training) switched to an abnormal dependence on tempo cues. The data indicate that, in a western culture, access to acoustic hearing in early life promotes a preference for mode rather than tempo cues which is enhanced by musical training. The challenge to these preferred strategies during cochlear implant hearing (simulated and real), regardless of musical training, suggests that access to pitch cues for children with hearing loss must be improved by preservation of residual hearing and improvements in cochlear implant technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0136685
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 28 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Giannantonio et al.


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