Why auditory training can help with your hearing loss?
Updated: Aug 22
Why auditory training can help with your hearing loss?
Most people with hearing loss assume that they will be able to hear again and participate in conversations once they have a pair of hearing aids. While this may be true for some adults, hearing more sounds with hearing aids doesn’t always equate to hearing clearly.
This is because hearing aids amplify sounds for our ears to hear. However, it is our brains that interpret and comprehend the meaning behind the speech sounds. Mishearing words in conversations can be amusing as well as problematic.
Because your audiologist/hearing professional knows this fact well, this is probably the main reason behind the referral.
Helping your brain hear once again
Auditory training can be described as teaching the brain to listen. There are 2 main approaches to do this- A bottom up approach and a top-down approach. Both approaches must go hand-in-hand in auditory training in order to improve listening and communication in everyday life.
The bottom up approach focuses on helping the listeners learn to make finer perceptual distinctions between sounds. It uses a wide range of sounds (e.g., tones, phoneme and words) to help listeners learn to tell these sounds apart. Overtime, through a series of systematic steps, the listener is able to distinguish rhyming words (e.g. pin vs fin), improve speech understanding and communicate effectively.
A common bottom-up error where the sounds were misheard.
The top down approach is context driven. Listeners are encouraged to apply their existing knowledge to predict what they are going to hear. For example, “The _eel was on the shoe." Listeners are trained to make an accurate ‘assumption’ instead of relying solely on hearing the actual sounds. With this skill in place, the conversation can flow smoothly once again.
A common top-down error where the context was misunderstood.
It is important to note that there must be sufficient auditory input for auditory training to be effective. This means that the hearing aids should be properly tuned. These hearing aids are loud enough for the listener to tell these different sounds apart.
Imagine trying to eavesdrop (with normal hearing) on a conversation across closed doors. If it is too soft, it may be really hard to pick up on any words. No matter how good our listening skills are, we are not able to decipher meaning from that. The same principle of hearing ‘enough’ before we can ‘tell apart’ sounds apply for both people with and without hearing loss.
How can Auditory training help you?
The benefits of auditory training are far and wide. It improves listening based skills such as communication skills, auditory processing speed, and listening in noisy situation. Other additional benefits of auditory training include improved mental well-being, and complex cognitive skills (i.e. Executive function).
Direct benefits of auditory training
Auditory training can increase the listener's ability to keep up with conversation through a few ways. Firstly, the individual is able to accurately distinguish the individually distinct speech sounds. Secondly, the individual is better able to keep up with the conversation through improved ability to in speech tracking. Lastly, the individual is able to thrive better in difficult listening conditions such as talking in a noisy restaurant.
These improvements slowly take shape as the brain starts to compensate for degraded auditory signals that were received at the ears. Together with the use of communication strategies that are shared within auditory training, communication and relationships can flourish once again.
Additional benefits of auditory training
Hopefully, by this point, you would have realized that auditory training is actually ‘auditory-based brain training’. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that there are a plethora of additional benefits when the brain functions better.
Communication fuels the growth of human relationships. Research consistently shows that it is the human relationships we develop that have the biggest impact on recovery in mental healthcare.
Auditory training has been shown to aid the development of complex cognitive skills (i.e., executive function).
How do you know if auditory training can help?
Here are some possible signs:
finding yourself frequently mishearing words,
asking family members to repeat themselves,
struggling in situations when there are competing noise, such as restaurants
relying on the note taker to find out what has been discussed even though you are in the meeting
straining to hear the message and finding it hard to remember what has been said.
It is important to not to downplay the role of your effort. You might try really hard to pick up enough words. Despite your best efforts, you might not remember what you heard.
All humans have a finite capacity of cognitive resources at any time. When you divert cognitive resources to help you ‘listen’, you are left with little cognitive resources to comprehend and remember what was actually said. With this cognitive overload, the individual is often tired after listening.
When we prioritise cognitive resources for comprehension and thinking in a conversation, communication can be less effortful and more enjoyable.
If you’ve worked with an audiologist and are used to your hearing aids settings, but still have trouble listening in your everyday environment, then auditory training could be worth a try.
If you want a therapist’s help to coach you on a journey to start hearing better again, please visit www.speechtherapyadventures.com.sg for an appointment.