Vibrotactile stimuli to allow a profoundly deaf person to perceive music through feeling the vibration

by: Professor Carl Hopkins

A few months back the Acoustics Research Unit at the University of Liverpool posted a video on the IOA blog about using vibrotactile stimuli to allow a profoundly deaf person to perceive music through feeling the vibration  - see https://www.ioa.org.uk/musical-vibrations. More recently, the vibrotactile equipment has been loaned to the Royal School for the Deaf Derby where it has been used to deliver music education.

The video in this blog documents the experiences of staff, pupils and providers who used and observed vibrotactile equipment in music lessons. The music teacher commented that the equipment “has certainly given our children greater access to sound…particularly in the area of pitch, they are now beginning to make the connection between the vibration and the pitch of the note which before, a lot of our students would get confused. ”. The value of using vibrotactile feedback was confirmed by teaching assistants and pupils, with a Year 9 pupil explaining “…they help me to recognise low, middle and high pitch.”

Additional educational value was evident in behavioural changes with increased teamwork and social interaction between pupils. It also transpired that the vibrotactile approach helps protect the teacher’s hearing and improves the learning environment. The music teacher commented that “…in the past…volume levels have been very high and that can affect hearing staff because we have to wear earplugs…with the inclusion of the vibrotactile equipment, I now have control…and it also creates a much calmer atmosphere”.

 

 

ABOUT PROFESSOR CARL HOPKINS:

Carl is a Professor in Acoustics and Head of the Acoustics Research Unit at the University of Liverpool. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Acoustics and a Chartered Engineer. Carl was awarded the Tyndall Medal in 2012 for his achievements and services in the field of acoustics, and awarded the Engineering Medal in 2016 in recognition of his outstanding contribution in the field of acoustical engineering. 

His research primarily focuses on the measurement and prediction of sound and structure-borne sound in the built environment with applications to building, automotive, aeronautic, or marine structures. He has published a sole-author monograph on sound transmission in buildings that is referenced in British, European and International Standards. Recent research on using vibrotactile stimuli to facilitate interactive performance between musicians with hearing impairments was shortlisted for the 2013 THE award 'Research project of the year'.