A common misconception about the hearing impaired is their inability to experience the joy of music. Deafness may mean you can’t hear and process sound in the traditional sense but it doesn’t mean you can’t feel it. In fact, studies have shown the sense of touch is heightened, allowing the deaf to perceive music in an altogether different way. Addressing the issue, German designer Frederik Podzuweit has come up with a collar concept called the “Music For Deaf People” that uses electricity to make a special membrane substance expand and contract and so on, translating the sound into a series of vibrations. These vibrations are transferred to the user’s neck, shoulder and collarbone. The device also features a receiver for radio frequencies as well as a plug-in for MP3-players to enhance the experience of the hearing impaired.

And if you think the hearing impaired are unable to play an instrument, check out the video below. It’s a soaring demonstration from deaf Grammy-winning percussionist Evelyn Glennie for a piece she did for TED a few years back. Virtuoso is the only way to describe her. Proof that listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums. Glennie has been profoundly deaf since age 12, but as this song demonstrates it has not inhibited her ability to perform at the international level. She regularly plays barefoot for both live performances and studio recordings, to better “feel” the music. Glennie contends that the public largely misunderstands deafness. She claims to have taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears. Evelyn Glennie’s music challenges the listener to ask where music comes from: Is it more than simply a translation from score to instrument to audience? How can a musician who has almost no hearing play with such sensitivity and compassion?

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