Audiologists have touted the virtues of auditory training, but for decades numerous attempts at popularizing these programs have been plagued with low patient uptake. A St. Louis company, using an NIH grant, hopes to make inroads by using gaming technology. Washington University-based start-up venture clEAR™ (customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation), LLC has officially released a new online customized hearing healthcare program that aims to improve the communication abilities of those with hearing loss.
The centerpiece of the program is a scientifically proven package of auditory training games. clEAR includes a recording module that allows friends and family of users to record their voices directly into the games, a feature that has never been implemented in commercial auditory training programs before.
Unique Training Program
The company was launched recently by Dr. Nancy Tye-Murray, a professor in the Washington University (WU) Department of Otolaryngology, and Dr. Brent Spehar, a WU Otolaryngology Research Professor. The scientific merit of the program is backed by nearly a decade of development supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“This program is completely unique; no other auditory training programs have enabled the users to actually train with the voices of the most important people in their lives,” said Tye-Murray. “We’re really personalizing this entire process.”
The program features a series of games designed to be more engaging than auditory training exercises of the past, which have low compliance rates. In a test group comprised of 93 adults with hearing loss, compliance rates for clEAR™ exceeded 95%, compared with less than 30% for another popular auditory training program. Each game focuses on a different aspect of hearing loss and teaches the users how to optimize their speech perception abilities and maximize their confidence.
clEAR is available to patients through their audiologists. If a direct user comes to the clEAR website, the user is assigned to a clEAR Professional Provider in his or her geographic region.
Users are given the option to train at a local professional’s office or from their own homes with online assistance and support.
“A key motivator for us to take the program online was flexibility,” said Tye-Murray. “We want users to be able to access our training games when they’re at home, no matter where home is, and when they’re traveling. However, we are passionate in our belief that an audiologist must be involved in the training, which is why we are enrolling audiologists from around the country to become clEAR Professional Providers.”
clEAR does more than provide auditory training. clEAR allows audiologists to provide the key elements of “customized hearing healthcare”, which include addressing patients’ listening-related communication difficulties, involving frequent communication partners, creating a sense of community with other patients, and providing ongoing professional support.