The Sound Health Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the University of California, San Francisco, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Renée Fleming.

Our mission is to promote research and public awareness about the impact of music on health and wellness. Visit our website here.

Fall 2023 Newsletter: Music and Hearing Loss

Up Next:


Exploring App-Based Music Interventions and Therapist-Led Music Therapy

Nov. 8 2023

This panel delves into the dynamic discourse surrounding the use of technology-driven music interventions versus traditional therapist-led approaches. We will discuss research findings, clinical outcomes, and case studies, highlighting the advantages and limitations of each approach. This webinar will be hosted live, so come with your questions!   

Music as Medicine: The Science and Clinical Practice. Dec 14th + 15th

The workshop “Music as Medicine: The Science and Clinical Practice,” taking place December 14–15, 2023, aims to highlight accomplishments from the last 6 years in advancing scientific research on music and health, develop a blueprint for the next phase of research, and further build the research community. 

The workshop is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and jointly organized by NIH, the NEA, the Renée Fleming Foundation, and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Spotlight On:

Nancy M. Williams

Self-described as an amateur pianist, Nancy M. Williams is the publisher and founding editor of Grand Piano Passion. Called an oasis for adult piano students with hearing loss, Grand Piano Passion is a consortium of articles, essays and original videos geared towards adult students of the piano. Along with forwarding the conversation on music hearing loss, Williams encourages everyone to claim their passion - by any sound necessary.

As a hearing healthcare advocate, she addresses audiences on living, working, and making music with hearing loss. While doing so, she’s known for performing the piano when speaking at conferences and conventions. Her published articles are widely read by consumers and hearing healthcare executives. 

As the Founder and President of Auditory Insight she consults with senior leadership and companies addressing hearing loss. She served on the board of the Hearing Health Foundation for five years from 2011-2015.

She is a distinguished graduate of Harvard Business School and Stanford University. And she has wone The Lamar York Notification Prize for her nonfiction piece “Deserting the Piano” in the The Chattahoochee Review.

New Funding Opportunity!

The Meredith Willson Pilot Grants Program for Music and Health Research

The Music Man Foundation is partnering with the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) to launch the Meredith Willson Pilot Research Program for music and health research. The goal of the pilot research program is to encourage multidisciplinary collaborations that help catalyze research on the impact of music on health. They anticipate funding a total of five proposals. Each pilot proposal may have a maximum budget of $20,000 over 9-12 months. Proposals will be evaluated by a review panel made up of experts. Learn about the grant requirements here.

An informational webinar was held on September 22nd and you may view it and the presentation slides here. Proposals are due by November 17th at 7:00pm PST.

In Conversation:

 Ethan Castro, PhD, Co-Founder of Edge Sound Research

This Fall, we sat down with Ethan Castro, PhD, an audio engineer who is hard of hearing, and who co-founded the tech startup Edge Sound Research, turning sound into a fully-immersive experience. Dr. Castro is a newly-minted PhD, having received his doctorate from the University of California, Riverside, just last Spring, in digital composition. His thesis formed the basis for his company, designed to combine hearing and feeling to create a new embodied experience of sound for everyone.

When he was a baby, Ethan went through a series of health challenges that led to significant hearing loss. As a child, he would hug his father's speakers to feel every note of the techno music, learning to use his sense of touch to experience the music that he couldn't fully hear, but that was so meaningful to his dad.

Ethan:  At the beginning, my ears weren't fully formed, and so the ear canal that drains mucus obviously didn't work. And so I had what's normally a very typical surgery. [But] just because they put the tubes in doesn't mean that it solved any problem. But something else that happened, because I was also a very premature baby, it was that the nerve going to the brain also doesn't accurately transmit the signal. So there's two types of hearing loss, the conductive and the sensorineural, which is not what you look for in the resume for an audio engineer and a musician.

SHN: Did you use assistive devices then, to enhance your hearing as a child?

Ethan: They didn't know if I was going to be fully deaf or just hard of hearing or some form of impairment. So yeah, I lived my life basically growing up as a deaf child, which means I learned to read really quickly. I learned how to use compensatory tactics really young, and so I got really good at those as a young kid. And so when I went to grade school, I didn't really need a hearing aid because I was able to read the lips of my teacher from across the room, and so I was able to understand what was going on. I read the lips of my classmates, I'd be able to touch the desk to feel people talking to me, so I was able to get by. They said, yeah, yes, he needs a hearing device, but he seems to be doing okay in school, so it's not affecting him. They thought my hearing was a lot better than it really was.

SHN: When did you discover music?

Ethan: Music was not here at all because my doctor said, yeah, hey, as long as he doesn't go into music, he'll be just fine. So I was like, great - music's not in my future. I mean, the only interaction with music I had was my dad was kind of a connoisseur of Hi-Fi systems. So he had some pretty big speaker systems and some cars that had some pretty good sound systems, and he was a big fan of eighties and nineties early dance music, and so it had a lot of bass to it, and I was like, hey, this is kind of cool. I can feel, and I could feel the two distinct portions of it as well as some really highly produced pop music. And so a lot of that stuff I remember saying, Hey, that's cool. I can feel that, I can associate with that. And that was my only association with music from when I was a kid till I actually went to high school where I started playing music.

SHN: And that's when you discovered the joy of making music? Even if you can't fully hear it?

Ethan: I went to a college prep high school called University High School in Fresno. And one of the requirements is not only that they teach you Latin, but you have to have some sort of musical training coming in. So I kind of squeaked in because my sister who had taken, I think a songwriting class a couple years before, we started kind of writing songs together, my parents got me a drum set because they figured, Hey, if you're going to play something, maybe it should be something that you can hear. And so my sister and I would kind of come up with different ideas just for fun, and then that was enough to get me in the door to university high school, and then that's where everything kind of clicked. I was like, oh, my life should be for music. I love this stuff. And I was in every single band.

SHN: What were some of the challenges you faced when you were in high school and playing in these bands that you can attribute directly to your hearing differences?

Ethan: Going into orchestra and they said, tune to this note, and I was like, what note?

SHN: They're like tune to this note and you're in front of the timpani and you're like, what note?

Ethan: Yeah, especially when I first started, I did not have this ability to use vibrations accurately. So when I was growing up, the whole compensatory method was to detect if someone's talking to you and kind of make out the shape of the vowel pattern as people are talking, the wave form, you can kind of feel the wave form shape if you feel a surface. And so that's what I was taught. Feel the desk as your teacher's talking to you so you can make out the waveform, look at the lips to be able to learn the plosives and the siblings and the phonetics, and then put together the phonetics, what you know the phonetics sound like in a clean environment, plus the waveform of the teacher. And that's how you can put together the articulation of a word. That doesn't happen in music.

So as much as you can learn that practice, that's learning one type of language. And then music is just like, yeah, there's no phonetics, there's no articulation. Everyone is facing the other way of the room, and you have to try to be able to pick out what people are doing. Or if there's a piccolo or a flute that's on the other side of the room and they're playing a figure passage and that's your cue, it's like, how am I supposed to know that that's actually playing? So I had to really learn a lot about every instrument, how they work, and what hand positions would make, what sound. And so I used my eyes a lot to be able to read what people were doing and follow people's moves. And then I tried to listen to the song or to the piece separately so I could kind of pick out different cues or at least kind of listen to it, like a popular music song where it's like, yeah, here's my part.

And then over time, I think I got more and more familiar since I used to hang out with the low brass guys and gals in the back of the room, we would start to, they would show me how things are. I would say, can I feel the bell? They're like, sure, I guess. Why not? I was like, trust me. And then I would touch the bell and I would start feeling the vibrations, and I could tell that they felt different than what the timpani would feel like, but at some point there was a connection of similarity between the two of them. And that's when I made the connection.

I think roughly around my junior, senior year of high school, I made the first connection, not that I could do it well, but I made the connection that I could tune the fundamental of the timpani to what the low brass was playing, and I could at least be in tune with them. And I thought, okay, even if I'm not accurately perceiving the pitch, as long as I tune with the low brass, I can at least be in tune with them.

SHN: And then how did you transition to audio engineering?

Ethan: So the LA Chamber Orchestra was working with Disney, and they were actually doing the live orchestration to this old school animation. And the conductor is listening to a click track, because the animation's pre-done, and you have to synchronize the orchestra to the animation. You can't slow the animation down to match the orchestra. So in order to make that click track, usually there was one company that did it. And I've always been a very technical engineering kind of person, which is why they kept calling me to do studio stuff in LA. I kept driving up and down, but this is the first time I stayed down there to say, okay, I'm going to work kind of heavily on this project and figure out a system to combine both of them together. And it was a janky system, I'll tell you that.

It should not have worked. I look back at it now and I say, Lord, I appreciate everything you've done for me, but you should not have enabled me like that because there's no way in history that a little laptop computer that had just an adapter to it would, and the way I did it was I made the conductor screen and the projector screen two sides of the same screen, split it down the middle and said, this half is for the conductor and this half is for the audience.

And it was running off of my laptop, and I showed up with my laptop and they're like, where's your equipment? I was like, well, it's right here. I'm just going to run it off software. They're like, excuse me? Do you know what this is for? I was like, yeah, it's for the LACO concert, right? I was like, is that a big deal? And they're like, so they started trying to find backups and stuff like that for me, but it worked flawlessly. I don't know how it did.

And hey, there we go. So that started me being in LA, being a very technical person, going to different studios, helping them with their computers, and I was involved that way. And that's when I started looking and touching the speakers because they were my own speakers. So I started disassembling it and touching the driver. And that's when I started realizing that just like the timpani, the speaker driver, the base driver could be used to be able to glean important information. So then as I went out to other studios, that's when I noticed that I can walk into any studio, touch the speakers and be able to understand exactly what was happening in the track, if there was mud in the vocals, if the drums were interfacing with the bass. Normally something that would take a while for someone to get used to the room first and then say, okay, now that I'm used to the room, I can figure out what's going on here. I just walk up, put my hand on the speaker and say, hey, you have mud at this exact frequency at this exact spot.

And I was able to turn out two to three times the amount of content in the same hour session or hour and a half or two hours, whatever it was. In the same time, I could turn out two to three more tracks than a normal engineer. So that also became my superpower. And when I applied to the PhD program at UC Riverside, I wondered if I could explore that relationship a little bit more. I didn't expect to look at technology and make a new technology. I was just looking at exploring why am I able to do that and what are the mechanisms and how to enhance it.

To learn more about Ethan's technology, and how his innovations are revolutionizing the audio experience, visit Edge Sound Research or watch his TEDx Talk. And look for the full interview in an episode of the podcast Cadence, created by SHN's Director of Communications, Indre Viskontas, to be released later this Fall.

Affinity Group Announcements

The Sound Health Network is pleased to announce the formation of an affinity group centered around the topic of music and integrative health

What is Integrative Health?

Integrative medicine or integrative healthcare involves bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way. We promote healing-oriented healthcare that takes account of the whole person. We emphasize the relationship between practitioner and patient, we seek out scientific evidence, and we work with a range of healthcare professionals, disciplines, and therapeutic techniques to achieve health and well-being.


The group is led by Suzanne B. Hanser Ed.D. MT-BC, founding chair emerita of Berklee's Music Therapy Department and president of the International Association for Music & Medicine.


To join the music and integrative health affinity group and learn about upcoming meetings, please join the group’s listserv here. Our next meeting will take place on June 6.


The goals of Affinity Groups for the Sound Health Network are to:

  • facilitate connections among stakeholders who have a mutual interest in music and health
  • facilitate cross-disciplinary communication and collaboration (e.g., researchers, music therapists, musicians)
  • provide a forum to discuss topics of interest (e.g., appropriate control conditions, study designs, music interventions, training)
  • build community and provide support


To learn more about other affinity groups, please click here.

From our NIH Partners: NIH Music-Based Intervention Toolkit for Brain Disorders of Aging

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) recently launched the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Music-Based Intervention Toolkit for Brain Disorders of Aging. This web-based resource will help researchers and health professionals interested in exploring music-based interventions for brain disorders of aging; it was adapted from a paper published in the journal, Neurology on May 1, 2023.

Learn more about the researcher toolkit in the NCCIH Research blog here.

Access the toolkit here.

In Case You Missed it: Music and Health Mock Study Section with Q&A

Watch a recording here!

Music and Health” Mock Study Section with Q&A” was the third in the “Music and Health Grant Writing Series”, sponsored by the Sound Health Network and NIH. The music and health research community were invited to join this 90 minute webinar accompanied by a 20-minute Q&A to a) become familiar with the NIH study section review process; b) better understand how reviewers present and discuss applications to the NIH; c) learn about the importance of the review criteria: significance, innovation, investigators, approach, environment, and additional review criteria; and d) better understand the roles of the primary reviewers, the panel, and NIH staff in a NIH study section review. 

In Case You Missed it: Writing a Strong Research Plan

Watch a recording here!

Writing a Strong Research Plan” was the second session in the “Music and Health Grant Writing Series”, sponsored by the Sound Health Network in collaboration with the NEA and NIH. This session went into more depth about the research plan section of a grant application, with a particular focus on music and health grants.

Research Spotlight: Music and Hearing Loss

Shukor, Lee, Seo, and Han 2021 Efficacy of Music Training in Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Users: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. This systematic review evaluated the efficacy of music training interventions in improving musical perception in deaf listeners who used hearing aids (HAs) and/or cochlear implants (CIs). The authors came to several conclusions: musical training does lead to improvements in musical perception, the beneficial effect of music training is more significant in children than adults, participants who used only CIs showed greater improvements after music training than bimodal users who used both CIs and HAs and previous musical experience did not differentially impact of the effectiveness of the intervention. The authors noted, however, that there are relatively few experiments investigating the effects of music training on music perception, and more research using high-quality randomized controlled trials is needed.  

Lo, Looi, Thompson, and McMahon 2022 Beyond Audition: Psychosocial Benefits of Music Training for Children with Hearing Loss. Hearing loss can harm social development; children with hearing loss have poorer psychosocial and quality-of-life outcomes than their typically-hearing peers. In this experiment, children aged 6-9 with hearing loss participated in a 12-week music training program that included in-person music therapy once a week, supplemented by online music apps. After music training, children demonstrated improvements in outcome measures related to peer relationships and emotion regulation. Thus, this experiment shows that music therapy may impact important psychosocial development such as emotional regulation and other aspects of learning.

Vaisberg, Marindale, Foolkeard, and Bendict 2019: A Qualitative Study of the Effects of Hearing Loss and Hearing Aid Use on Music Perception in Performing Musicians. The authors interviewed 12 musicians who were amateur ensemble instrumentalists to better understand the impact of hearing aids on active participation in music-making. Unsurprisingly, hearing-impaired instrumentalists face challenges participating in musical activities. The qualitative data revealed that the most common music-related concern for musicians with hearing loss was not related to music perception itself but instead was associated with the ability to hear the conductor. Thus, in order for musical ensembles to enable hearing-impaired individuals to participate in music ensembles meaningfully, certain accommodations are advised. 

Looi, Rutledge, and Prvan 2019 Music Appreciation of Adult Hearing Aid Users and the Impact of Different Levels of Hearing Loss. This study aimed to collect information on music appreciation and listening from adults who use hearing aids. A questionnaire focused on topics such as music listening habits and music training background, sound quality, musical styles, music preferences, and other factors affecting music listening enjoyment. Respondents with severe hearing loss reported a more significant reduction in music enjoyment, noting that hearing aids made the music sound less melodic. The data also revealed that the severity of hearing loss predicted differences in how different genres sound with hearing aids. For example, adults with severe hearing loss preferred male singers and lower-pitched instruments. 

Related Conferences and Events

Members of the Sound Health Network Team will attend the workshop Music as Medicine: The Science and Clinical Practice, taking place December 14–15, 2023. The workshop will highlight accomplishments from the last 6 years in advancing scientific research on music and health, develop a blueprint for the next phase of research, and further build the research community.  Certain parts of the program will be available as free livestreams for the general public.

June 13-16, 2024 - The Neurosciences and Music: Wiring, re-wiring, and well-being. Helsinki, Finland & Online

Click here for additional upcoming events!

Watch Sound Health Network events here.

Job Opportunities in Music and Health

Check out music and health job opportunities on our website here!

Research Coordinator, Music and Medicine

The Research Coordinator will contribute to the advancement of research, theory, and practice in the fields of music therapy and music & medicine. They will play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the role of music in medical settings. Some of the requirements for the Research Coordinator include:

  1. Serve as a coordinator for music and medicine-based studies at the Eastman School of Music. 
  2. Serve as a coordinator for music therapy-based studies at UR Medicine. 
  3. Maintain a working knowledge of clinical trial coordination by reviewing research literature, attending pertinent meetings and seminars, participate in the preparation of study documents and regulatory requirements. Complete regulatory requirements and develop study protocols, assessments. 

The Research Coordinator will contribute to the advancement of research, theory, and practice in the fields of music therapy and music & medicine. They will play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the role of music in medical settings. 

Multiple Anticipated Positions in the Music, Social Engagement, and Development Workgroup in the Vanderbilt Music Cognition Lab, Nashville, TN (PI: Miriam Lense, PhD)

  • Music Therapist (Part or Full-Time) *Note: combined music therapist/postdoctoral fellow position possible for candidates with both clinical and research training
  • Postdoctoral Fellow (Part or Full-Time) *Clinical experience/skills preferred.
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