Most people would assume that if you are Deaf, music is something that you simply cannot access. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Those with profound hearing loss often enjoy music purely through the vibration of the melody and the beat. As a result, there are many Deaf people who love dancing, and flock to festivals and concerts.
Nico DiMarco is a successful Deaf DJ from a 4th generation Deaf family who is determined to share his passion for music and dancing with the Deaf and hard of hearing community.
Nico is driven by the belief that Deaf people can do anything and wants to inspire the Deaf and hard of hearing to join him on the dance floor.
He explains, “If you have your shoes off and you’re feeling music, the low pitches are in the lower back and the high pitches are in the upper back. When music goes through your body, it creates a very pleasurable experience. That’s why music is universal.”
Furthermore, this experience is being enhanced by incredible new technologies that have recently been invented. They take the purely auditory aspects of music and translate them into fascinating multi-sensory experiences.
The Sound Shirt, developed by high-tech fashion brand Cute Circuit, enables people to experience pitch and rhythm through vibrations on various parts of their upper body. This is accomplished through technology that is woven into the fabric – it accentuates the beat along their back, and the melody along their arms.
Deaf People See and Feel Sound
Scientists have also discovered that music is not purely an auditory experience.
When the brains of Deaf people are compared to those of hearing people, there is very little difference in brain activity in the auditory cortex while they are listening to music.
Deaf people might not be hearing music through their ears, however their brains are still receiving sound both through vibration and visual cues. Since our brains have in-built neuroplasticity, we are able to use our other senses to fill in the blanks. It's because of this amazing adaptability that visual and kinesthetic stimuli can activate the auditory section of the brain.
Deaf people have a completely unique experience of music, and that’s something that Matt Maxey from DEAFinetly Dope wants to share with the world.
Born profoundly Deaf, Matt advocates for the accessibility of Deaf and hard of hearing people at live music events.
When a sign language interpreter is available, those with a hearing loss can enjoy the meaning behind the words while feeling the music in their bodies, and the electric social and energetic environment that is created at the venue.
“The Deaf community has dealt with so much ignorance and all they’ve ever wanted was inclusion and to be accepted and treated equally while being able to enjoy life on an equal level as their hearing peers,” says Matt.
Interpreting music is a creative pursuit – instead of simple, literal signing, it encapsulates the whole body to convey meaning through signs alongside facial expressions and dance moves.
Amber Galloway Gallego is a professional sign language interpreter who specialises in music – she uses American Sign Language to convey the meaning of a song to those who can’t hear the lyrics.
When hired to interpret concerts for high profile artists like Kendrick Lamar, Adele, and Drake, she’ll often have to memorise complex lyrics for weeks in advance so she is able to convey the meaning in real time. It’s a challenge that she gladly accepts.
“You know what the reward is? Looking down in the audience and seeing Deaf and hard of hearing members, all of those people dancing and jamming out and feeling included in that music experience. For myself, I’m part of this cultural and linguistic community, and we all communicate in different ways. Some of us sign and voice, some of us just sign, but no one way is superior to the other,” says Amber.
Many Deaf and hard of hearing people find that music is a truly pleasurable experience and big part of their lives. Thanks to the combination of the physical sensation of sound, incredible new technology, and access to sign language interpreters at concerts, music is increasingly becoming an even richer and expressive experience for the Deaf and hard of hearing.