If you’ve started dreading the company office meeting or the family get together because it’s just too difficult to understand the conversation, your hearing might benefit from a little computer training. At least that’s the finding from a new study by Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary researchers, which suggests speech-in-noise intelligibility can be improved in some cases by playing specially designed computer games. And while the best treatment for poor hearing is still hearing aids expertly fit by a hearing healthcare professional, the day may come when brain training exercises are part of the hearing loss treatment plan.
According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, approximately 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. The condition is more common among older adults, who often have problems separating speech from other noises in the room, especially in particularly noisy situations such as crowded restaurants. Age-related hearing loss is known as presbycusis and is caused by natural aging of the auditory system.
During the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary study, elderly subjects trained for eight weeks on a closed-loop (CL) computerized audio game which challenged them to listen to subtle changes in sound in order to put together jigsaw puzzles using a touchscreen tablet. The random, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial determined that subjects in the CL training group could correctly identify 25 percent more words in spoken sentences or digital sequences in situations where high levels of background noise were present than those in the placebo group who were asked to rely on word recall without sound to assemble the puzzles.
Hearing is a brain function
Although we hear with our ears, it’s our brain which interprets the information they collect. The study’s findings confirm what scientists know about the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life, known as neuroplasticity, especially as it relates to dealing with background noise.
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If you are experiencing hearing loss and aren’t sure where to begin with treatment, contact the Grey Bruce Audiology at 519-376-9084