Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Ras may be tone deaf

The controversy surrounding the singing of the national anthem by Ras Dumisani continues. Was it his interpretation people didn't like, or is he in fact tone deaf and can't sing?

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The controversy surrounding the singing of the national anthem by Ras Dumisani in France last Friday just won't die down. Was it just his interpretation people didn't like, or is he in fact tone deaf and can't sing?

Watch this video and make up your own mind. Then read more about what it means to be tone deaf.

If you're one of the unlucky people who is tone deaf, it turns out your brain may have a wiring problem. That's what new research suggests.

People who are tone deaf can't detect differences in musical pitch but usually have normal hearing and speech. Tone-deafness runs in families, and estimates of how many people have the problem range from 4% to 17%.

In the small study done in Boston, brain scans showed there was a difference in a particular brain circuit between those who were tone deaf and those who weren't.

Among the tone deaf, researchers discovered there were fewer connections between two areas of the brain that perceive and produce sounds.

The study's lead author, Psyche Loui, likened the connection to a highway between two islands in the brain.

In tone-deaf people, "there's less traffic on the highway," said Loui, who studies music and the brain at Harvard Medical School and is also a musician.

How the study was done
Loui and her colleagues took brain scans of 20 people, half of them tone deaf. Those who were tone deaf had fewer nerve fibres between the frontal and temporal regions of the brain, or in some cases the fibres couldn't be detected at all. The researchers reported their the Journal of Neuroscience.

"It's a new piece in our understanding of tone-deafness and the processes that are involved in the perception of pitch in general," said Nina Kraus of North-western University, who wasn't involved in the research.

Loui said the brain connection they examined was long known to be involved in language. "Now that we know which brain pathways to train," she said, there may be ways to help people with tone-deafness, and perhaps those with other language disorders.

(Health24/Sapa, updated November 2009)

 

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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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