Hearing is a Sense. Listening is a Skill.

Think back to when you were attending school: Do you remember the term “active listening”?

It’s an interesting phrase because all listening is an “active” process, really. Listening requires an individual to pay attention to things that are of interest while dismissing others that are not. Hearing, on the other hand, requires no effort — provided you have healthy hearing.

Better Communication Through Sharper Thinking

A slowdown or malfunction in the brain’s ability to process sounds can make it difficult to understand what is being said — to actively listen. Hearing loss compounds this difficulty; when the delicate hair cells in the cochlea that detect sounds are damaged or broken, amplification is needed for the hair cells to become stimulated and send signals to the brain. Even then, there are sometimes gaps during conversation.

Auditory retraining involves helping the brain fill in these gaps that make communication difficult. Because hearing in noise is difficult for anyone, even those with normal hearing, these types of brain exercises affect what’s known as neuroplasticity: changes in the brain due to injury, or changes in behavior, environment, thinking, or emotions. Audiologists have recognized the role neuroplasticity can play in relearning how to hear certain sounds and helping the brain recover from years of hearing loss.

There is a wide range of audio and brain-training programs available that can give your brain a workout. These programs train your brain to process information more quickly, and they aren’t restricted purely to audio programs; those who love puzzles and performing other problem-solving tasks can also experience improvements in auditory processing simply by keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Although it can take up to a full year for these programs to have a strong effect on hearing ability, most aural rehabilitation can be completed within a few months with strong improvements to communication.

TOP PROGRAMS AVAILABLE FOR BRAIN TRAINING

  • LUMOSITY

    This game-based training program designed by neuroscientists exercises memory and attention. Lumosity has adapted tasks that measure cognitive abilities into more than 40 fun games, and it creates a personalized training program for you that you use on acomputer, tablet, or smartphone. Lumosity’s programs are based on peer-reviewed research studies and conference presentations, and its ongoing research helps its development team create new programs that improve cognitive processing.

  • LACE

    Listening and Communication Enhancement is a home-based, self-paced auditory-training program designed by leading audiologists to improve listening and communication skills. The program states that it can help retrain the brain to comprehend speech up to 40 percent better in difficult listening situations, like inside noisy restaurants or in the company of competing or rapid speakers. LACE auditory training was constructed by Silicon Valley software veterans, who created a platform that is simple to use with smooth functionality.

  • LISN & LEARN

    This software produces a three-dimensional listening environment designed to train children who are experiencing listening difficulties in the classroom. The program was designed with children who suffer from spatial processing disorder (SPD) in mind, and it helps suppress background noise and increases the amount of attention devoted to target acoustic stimuli. SPD is common in children with a history of middle-ear infections and individuals with hearing loss, according to the product’s creator, National Acoustic Laboratories in Australia.

  • BRAINHQ

    This brain-training system was designed and tested by more than 100 top international neuroscientists and brain experts, and it improves attention, memory, and processing speed. More than 70 published research papers show real benefits from using the exercises. Trainings are customized to your request and can be scheduled in advance, or you can take on suggested courses based on your preference and skill level. Each exercise automatically adapts to your skill threshold, meaning your brain is always getting a workout.

  • EAROBICS

    This is an instructional, multisensory program designed to help children improve their reading and communication skills through auditory training. Earobics states that 97 percent of students using its program show improvement in reading ability, and it bases its work on over 20 years of research and application in schools across the country. Earobics provides the tools and other resources for flexible education methods to help children of all abilities. This program is used in some educational institutions.

  • FAST FORWORD

    This educational software is intended to enhance a child’s cognitive skills by focusing on processing efficiency in language, literacy, and reading. Fast ForWord backs its program with more than 250 research studies, and it states that learners can improve their language and reading by up to two grade levels in as little as three months while boosting performance across all areas of study. Its research shows improvement in language arts, math, science, and social studies proficiency after use of the program


Read it again! Get this article, and more like it, by downloading a copy of our Spring 2015 newsletter.