Background: The ability to separate two interleaved melodies is an important factor in music appreciation. This ability is greatly reduced in people with hearing impairment, contributing to difficulties in music appreciation. The aim of this study was to assess whether visual cues, musical training or musical context could have an effect on this ability, and potentially improve music appreciation for the hearing impaired. Methods: Musicians (N = 18) and non-musicians (N = 19) were asked to rate the difficulty of segregating a four-note repeating melody from interleaved random distracter notes. Visual cues were provided on half the blocks, and two musical contexts were tested, with the overlap between melody and distracter notes either gradually increasing or decreasing. Conclusions: Visual cues, musical training, and musical context all affected the difficulty of extracting the melody from a background of interleaved random distracter notes. Visual cues were effective in reducing the difficulty of segregating the melody from distracter notes, even in individuals with no musical training. These results are consistent with theories that indicate an important role for central (top-down) processes in auditory streaming mechanisms, and suggest that visual cues may help the hearing-impaired enjoy music.
Bibliographical noteß 2010 Marozeau et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.