Helping Hearing in Noise with Another Tool

A new resource was introduced recently; Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School and Harvard University programmed a new game that can help both mice and humans hear soft sounds in noise. The study was published the week of June 9-13 in PNAS Online Early Edition.

There are other computer or digital programs to help train the brain in noise such as the LACE program (Listening and Communication Enhancement) and HearCoach for mobile devices (iPhone and Android platforms) from Starkey . LACE was detailed in an earlier post . HearCoach is a free app, but has fewer types of games. It does a great job of introducing patients to this type of rehabilitation.

The introduction of another option is very exciting, not only for adults but for children as well. The new game from this group uses immediate feedback to the player as described by Dr. Daniel Polley: “Like the children’s game ‘hot and cold,’ our game provided instantaneous auditory feedback that allowed our human and mouse subjects to home in on the location of a hidden target.” Polly is the director of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear’s Amelia Peabody Neural Plasticity Unit of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories and assistant professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School.

Not only the mice but the human subjects as well had increased understanding in noise when they participated in active rather than passive listening. This area has been a focus in my offices over the past year. The person with the hearing loss must use active listening in more challenging environments due not only to the hearing loss but the changes in the brain as we age.  The authors of the study agree that what they call “audiogames” including hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices, may help connect the hearing impaired with the noisier parts of life.

If you use any other game or computer program in your practice, let us know!


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