Music for the well-being of deaf children | Gazette

professor gilles Comeaufounder and director of the Institute for Research on Music and Health

Andrew playing the piano

The Institute for Research on Music and Health (IRMS) at the University of Ottawa conducts cutting-edge research on the effects of music on health. Drawing inspiration from the health sciences, social sciences, engineering, and medicine, his work spans a wide field of study. Its aim, in particular, is to make music more accessible to people with disabilities and to assess its benefits for people with mental health problems and the elderly.

One of his star projects, entitled ” The effect of piano lessons on deaf children with cochlear implants It is an initiative of Professor Gilles Comeau, founder and director of the Institute, and Sandra Markovic, a master’s student.

In this study exploring the effects of piano lessons in deaf children with cochlear implants, children aged four to nine years received individual piano lessons for six months using auditory models based on the Suzuki method and multisensory teaching (tactile, auditory , verbal and visual).

After six months, the research team compared the results of a group made up of children with normal hearing, with those of the group of deaf children who had received a cochlear implant in the prelinguistic age (before the age of two). However, levels of engagement and pleasure were slightly higher among cochlear implant recipients. At the end of the experiment, the children of the two groups participated in a student recital.


Better self-confidence and passion for music.
Zoe playing the piano

Experience shows that deaf children have greatly benefited from their adapted musical training, as the mother of one of the participants testifies: “Thanks to her pedagogical skills, Sandra was able to reassure my daughter Zoé, although she was shy and anxious. I have seen her progress to a remarkable level of skill. But the experience also increased her self-confidence in other areas. She has become a petite athlete and leads an active social life.”

Two twin brothers, one with moderate to severe hearing loss and the other with normal hearing, also participated in the study. “The experiment showed a positive correlation between learning music and language development,” says Alyson Di Franco, mother of the two boys. We are […] grateful for the piano lessons, which have awakened a passion for music in our children. Indeed, the twins continued with piano lessons and then self-taught guitar, bass, drums and saxophone. Together with friends, they formed a group that writes and records their own songs.

A violinist who “feels” the music

Even with cochlear implants, hearing abilities have limitations that can make it difficult to perceive music and play an instrument. However, Professor Comeau and Raina Saunders, a music master’s student, in collaboration with Dr.r Ryan Rourke and colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) studied the case of an 18-year-old man who received cochlear implants at a young age following a diagnosis of severe-to-profound bilateral congenital hearing loss when he was just two months old. ancient.

Thanks to his exceptional sensitivity to sounds, Alexandre, who is also studying music at the University of Ottawa, plays the violin, an instrument that, however, requires mastery of tonalities. To do this, he uses his inner ear and his perception of vibrations. “When you’re listening from the inside, it’s almost impossible to get out of tune,” he says. I love the feel of the violin against my cheek and under my fingers. »

This remarkable example demonstrates that it is possible for children with cochlear implants to achieve a high level of musical performance.


Hope for a lab at CHEO

The Institute has developed strong partnerships with all hospitals in the National Capital Region, including CHEO, and with the research community in its main areas of interest.

CHEO has been performing cochlear implant surgeries for prelingual children for 20 years. Parents want their children to enjoy everything life has to offer, and music is one of them.

Professor Comeau hopes to one day see “an Institute laboratory at CHEO, where children who have received cochlear implants receive music training alongside their oral learning therapy.”

May your wish come true!

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