Music & Deafness Page

Musical Abilities of Children Who Are Deaf

Darrow, A. A. (1989). Music and the hearing impaired: A review of the research with implications for music educators. Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, 7(2), 10-12.

Brief summaries of the findings of research conducted between 1966 and 1989 are presented and the educational implications of these findings are discussed. The general view is that students who have hearing impairments benefit not just academically and musically from music education, but also in terms of improved language and social skills. Specific findings are applied to teaching practices in the music classroom.


Darrow, A. A. (1987). An investigative study: The effect of hearing impairment on musical aptitude. Journal of Music Therapy, 24(2), 88-96.

The musical aptitude of children who have normal hearing or severe hearing impairments was measured using the Primary Measures of Music Audiation. Analysis of the data comparing the two groups revealed that while the children who had hearing impairments had significantly lower scores on the PMMA than their nondisabled peers, the scores of the children who had hearing impairments increased with grade level, indicating that hearing impairment delays but does not impair the development of musical skills. Children who had hearing impairments scored higher on the rhythm test than the tonal test.


Darrow, A. A. (1983). A comparison of rhythmic responsiveness in normal and hearing impaired children and an investigation of the relationship of rhythmic responsiveness to the suprasegmental aspects of speech perception. Dissertation Abstracts International, 44-09(A), 2702.

The rhythmic responsiveness of children who had hearing impairments was compared to that of children with normal hearing using the Test of Rhythmic Responsiveness. It was found that the children who had hearing impairments performed as well or better than their nondisabled peers in the areas of beat identification, tempo change, meter discrimination, and rhythm pattern maintenance. Children who had hearing impairments did not perform as well as their nondisabled peers in the areas of melodic rhythm duplication and rhythm pattern duplication. Through comparison of scores on the Children’s Auditory Test and the Auditory Numbers Test with scores on the TRR, correlations were found between the subtests which measured beat identification, melodic rhythm duplication, and beat maintenance performance and the speech perception tests.


Korduba, O. M. (1975). Duplicated rhythmic hearing patterns between deaf and normal hearing children. Journal of Music Therapy, 13(3), 136-146.

By comparing their performance on a rhythmic reproduction task based on the Kwalwasser-Dykema Rhythm Discrimination Test, Korduba examined the rhythmic ability of children who had normal hearing and children who had hearing impairments. No significant difference was found, indicating that children who have hearing impairments were able to duplicate rhythmic patterns as well than the children who had normal hearing.


Rileigh, K. K., & Odom, P. B. (1972). Perception of rhythm by subjects with normal and deficient hearing. Developmental Psychology,7(1), 54-61.

The rhythmic performance ability of children who were deaf was compared with that of children who had normal hearing and whose hearing was interfered with by white noise, through performance of rhythms from a visual stimulus. The accuracy of the number of beats, duration of the patterns, and the rhythmic relationships was statistically analyzed. An analysis of these statistics lead Rileigh to propose that there is a developmental continuum of skills which progresses from salience for beats to salience for rhythm.


Darrow, A. A. (1991). An assessment and comparison of hearing impaired children’s preference for timbre and musical instruments. Journal of Music Therapy, 28(1), 48-59.

After a brief presentation on how to play them, children who had severe or profound hearing impairments were given the opportunity to try six different musical instruments. A videotape of their playing behaviors was examined for the order in which they selected instruments, the length of time they played them and their indication of a favorite in sign. The trombone and the violin were found to be the instruments most often preferred. In a second study, the Instrument Timbre Preference Test was administered to children with severe and profound hearing impairments. Results of this test indicated a group preference for the clarinet/sax and French horn timbres.