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This paper investigates effects of hearing deficits on the performance of piano playing. It has been well known that aging affects hearing. A series of previous studies have revealed that the typical pattern of the "aged" hearing is a progressive loss of sensitivity for high frequencies. The inefficiency of the cochlear amplification by the outer hair cells (OHCs) has been assumed to be a dominant cause to this insensitivity. This deficit in the OHCs also results both in broadening the cochlear filters and in reducing the perceptual dynamic range. Those modulations could change the quality of the auditory feedback and might change a certain aspect of the musical performance. In case of the piano performance, the sound intensity is under the control of players' touches (a key velocities in more physical terms). It is not, however, a simple one-to-one relation between the intensity of the acoustical outcomes and the key velocity by the players' action, due not only to the mechanical and/or acoustic characteristics among different pianos but also to the acoustical environment around the pianists. Therefore, each pianist needs a certain amount of auditory feedback to know whether his/her touches are "right". In this study, 18 musical students majoring in piano at Japanese musical university for the conservatory level were asked to play under the simulated hearing impairment conditions. The simulation realized the average audiogram of 60-year-old persons. The played sounds of the electric piano were signal processed and fed back to the pianists over headphones in real time. Two types of the simulated hearing impairment were tested. One preserved the dynamic compressional characteristics of the normal/healthy hearing. The other type threw it out, and apply a simple linear filterbank. Compared to the reference condition where the signal processing was by-passed, the velocity significantly increased, and so did the output intensity whether the dynamic compression was preserved or not. However, the effects of the loss of the compression was not clearly observed.
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