Those with normal hearing ability, partial hearing and non-hearing persons, can sense vibrations created by sound. These vibrations do not need to enter through the ears, and can enter at different receptive points of the body.
Through research, we have been able to better understand the way deaf and hearing loss persons sense and perceive sound vibrations. For example, a profoundly deaf musician, Evelyn Glennie, performs with her bare feet so that she can sense the vibrations of her instruments and that of the orchestra playing with her.
But by no means is this a special gift reserved for professional musicians. All human beings have this capability.
Deaf Way II: How the Deaf & Hard of Hearing Danced to Music
An example of this was Deaf Way II, an international festival hosted by Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. during 2002. 9,675 deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and hearing participants from 121 countries descended on Washington, D.C., for a week-long series of plenary sessions and concurrent workshops held at the Washington Convention Center.
Among a range of subjects covered during the conference, including advocacy and community development, economics, education, family, health and mental health and sign language and interpretation, the festival included dancing and live rock bands.
Some might find this a strange inclusion, but the beats were “easily followed by the deaf dancers through the vibrations of the music coursing up from their feet through their bodies. Deaf non-dancers clustered around the loudspeakers, placed their hands on the speakers, and swayed to the beat coursing through their bodies from their hands”. (Source: Disabilityworld.org)
This goes to show that ears are only one way in which the body absorbs sound and vibration, and that partially deaf and deaf persons can appreciate rhythm and feel emotions evoked by sound frequencies.
How Binaural Beats Affect the Hard of Hearing & the Deaf
The same theory is true for binaural beats, a process that synchronizes the right and left sides of the brain at the same frequency, enabling the user to experience various states of consciousness through a specially designed blueprint of sound frequencies. The deaf are also able to experience the same benefits of a hearing person, such as relaxation, pain relief and higher consciousness.
During one study by The Monroe Institute, six hearing persons were studied wearing headphones over their ears and other parts of the head. The headphones were connected to brain-mapping software while different sounds and vibrations were played.
When tests were being done on parts of the head other than that of the ears, the subjects were given earplugs to avoid sound entering the brain through the ears. The function of the brain-mapper was to determine if there were specific electrophysiological responses that were separate or different from the anecdotal responses of the tested individuals.
The test subjects and operators were both completely unaware as to what recording was playing at what time, and no one had the slightest idea of what to expect or what type of experience might be observed by the brain-mapping equipment. Results were generated by the software and displayed on a computer screen.
The results reflected that left-right brain synchrony could be achieved through the headphones if placed anywhere on the head.
The most effective non-ear location was found to be slightly above or just behind the ears, approximately one inch above and slightly behind each ear. This resulted in increased feelings of relaxation and comfort.
In fact, the reports from test subjects wearing the headphones on non-ear areas around the head proved to be very interesting. Subjects explained travelling through different mental states, experiencing vivid, bright colours, and some even said they encountered images and non-earthly beings. This is not uncommon for those using Theta binaural beats for the first time.
After the completion of the experiment, a sign language translator–hypnotherapist suggested another placement of the headphones that might offer better levels of comfort and relaxation. This placement was made over the neck arteries; after first identifying the pulsation of the veins and then placing the headphones over that specific area.
The subjects showed the exact same results as when the earphones were placed on non-ear areas around the head. Proof that this was indeed due to the vibrations delivered through the nerve close to the carotid arteries was realized when the headphones moved inadvertently from their placement and the subject suddenly reported that the effects were ending and that she was returning to her usual conscious state. (Source: monroeinstitute.org/Perceptual%20Studies)
In Conclusion: Binaural Beats Advice for Those with Hearing Loss
The Monroe Institute study proves that binaural beats are effective even in profoundly deaf people. This is because people with normal hearing, as well as those who are deaf, can feel the sound vibrations created by the frequencies in the music through non-ear locations
There are many deaf musicians who are able to sense rhythm and experience the same emotional responses to music though the penetration of frequencies through the body, as highlighted previously at the Deaf Way II festival.
As the aforementioned study describes, for deaf people listening to binaural beats, headphones don't necessarily have to be placed over the ear because left-right brain synchrony can be achieved with headphones placed at several non-ear locations.
If you are partially deaf in one ear and have full hearing in the other, you may want to continue using headphones as normal. However, if you are partially deaf in both ears, or completely deaf, then you may want to experiment with the non-ear locations as outlined in the Monroe study.