MED­I­CAL MISCELLANY

Daily Mail - - Good Health -

This week: Are some peo­ple born tone deaf?

THE term tone deaf usu­ally refers to peo­ple who strug­gle to per­ceive dif­fer­ences in mu­si­cal pitch.

‘But most peo­ple who claim to be tone deaf — if they can’t sing in tune, for ex­am­ple — are not,’ says Dr Chris Al­dren, an ear sur­geon at the Princess Mar­garet Hos­pi­tal in Wind­sor.

‘They have just not had any singing train­ing, been told early in life they can’t sing or just not made much of an ef­fort.’

With train­ing they can usu­ally im­prove, he says. ‘How­ever, about 4 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion has amu­sia — proper tone deaf­ness — where they can­not dif­fer­en­ti­ate pitch at all. If you play two dif­fer­ent notes on a pi­ano, they can’t tell they’re not the same.

‘A pro­por­tion of these peo­ple can’t ap­pre­ci­ate mu­sic — it just sounds like a jum­ble of noise.’

It may be that they have an ab­nor­mal­ity in the au­di­tory cor­tex, one of the main ar­eas of the brain where sounds are pro­cessed. Mr Al­dren says although per­fect pitch — the abil­ity to iden­tify a note af­ter hear­ing it — is rare, many chil­dren can de­velop it, if trained be­fore eight.

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