Can musical talent stem from visual impairment?

Lata Jain
Music can allow young children to mark out events in their daily routine and can be a substitute language for children who cannot communicate in other ways. This is most important for blind children who can’t see at all.
With the enormous response to visually impaired Thumpa Kumari’s song, Sun raha hoon mein on the social media and several experiences wherein visually impaired children are good at music, doctors and research scholars are trying to understand if musical talent and vision impairment are closely linked. Thumpa kuamri, 16 is a blind girl from Ranchi whose mellifluous voice received a great response.
Professor Adam Ockelford, a musician and visiting research fellow at the Institute of Education, London, has some solid evidence. He and his research team surveyed and visited visually impaired children who had been premature babies, at home and at school. Working with around 40 blind children, as well as surveying parents, teachers and music therapists, the study showed that blind children are 4,000 times more likely to have perfect pitch – a traditional marker of exceptional musical ability – than their fully sighted peers.
lata jain

Lata Jain

Stevie Wonder never considered his blindness a “disadvantage,” and he’s proved his point for more than 50 years. But for all his fantastic talent, his blindness may have contributed to his skills nonetheless. Research has found overwhelming evidence to suggest that blind musicians’ brains can be a lot more musically attuned than those of sighted musicians.

When blind individuals lose their sight at early ages, it’s certainly a disadvantage. But it has interesting positive effects as far as musical sensitivity goes. Blind children’s brains undergo radical changes in order to make better use of the sensory inputs they can gather. Numerous fMRI and lesion studies suggest that individual’s blind since childhood repurpose large portions of their visual cortex in order to respond better to auditory stimuli. The younger children are when they lose their sight, the more powerful their auditory cortex can be, thanks to increased neural plasticity in place during infancy/early childhood/young childhood says Dr.Vinay  kumar leading ENT surgeon.
Studies at the University of Melbourne have found that people who go blind at younger ages develop better pitch discrimination and pitch-timbre discrimination than sighted people, regardless of their levels of musical training. Obviously musical training bolsters those abilities, but blind people seem to start with a more sensitive neural foundation. Blind subjects are also far better at determining the position of sounds using a single ear; everyone, sighted or blind, can determine position fairly accurately with two ears, but only blind people can do so using one.
People who lose their sight early in life often go on to develop superior musical ability, researchers say. It was known that people who were blind were very good at orientating themselves using sound says Dr.Meera ENT.
“Blindness and learning difficulties need not prove a barrier to children’s musical development and achievement – and may even be a “positive influence,” says Professor Adam Ockelford, visiting research fellow at the Institute of Education, London, who carried out the study with Christina Matawa of the Wandsworth Visual Impairment Specialist Teaching Service.
The study found that 48 per cent of the blind children demonstrated great interest in everyday sounds, compared to 33 per cent of those who were partially sighted and thirteen per cent of those who had full sight. Ninety percent of blind children were particularly keen on music, against 67 per cent of partially sighted children and 38 per cent of those with full sight. Sixty-eight per cent of the blind and partially sighted children played at least one instrument, compared to 41 per cent of the sighted group. Parents of the blind children also reported that music was particularly important as a source of comfort, helping youngsters relax and express their emotions.

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