Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Training Your Ears to Hear Better

Group talking at table might make it hard to hear.

For those with hearing loss, trying to hear others speaking in a difficult listening situations is anything but a game. And yet, playing a game might just hold the answer for clearer hearing.

Ever try to hear someone speaking at a crowded bar or restaurant? Even people without hearing loss can relate to the difficult task of trying to hear someone speaking when there is a lot of background noise. It's been long known that musicians with hearing loss are better able to pick out sounds and speech in a crowd. It's thought that their musical training allows them to focus in on and pick out certain sounds, thus making it easier for them to hear. Now science has developed a game that strengthens these very same focusing abilities in people. According to an article on Science Daily, “Researchers from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School and Harvard University programmed a new type of game that trained both mice and humans to enhance their ability to discriminate soft sounds in noisy backgrounds.”

Subjects were asked to play an audio game that asked them to pick out tone changes with increasing levels of background noise. Their success or failure at this task was instantaneously acknowledged. This instant feedback encouraged participants to begin to recognize the ways their hearing could be directed to focus in on certain sounds. Like a highly skilled musician, subjects were learning the subtle ways to control their hearing. Something that may have been automatic for most of their lives thus becomes honed into a learned skill.

In just thirty minutes of game play a day, subjects learned the ability to focus their listening and thus their hearing ability in background noise improved. In fact, researchers recorded neural activity in order to determine how the brain’s processing changed with training. They found that training dramatically improved the way the brain encoded sound and that this improvement transferred into an ability to detect even soft sounds amongst elevated background noise. According to lead researcher Dr. Jonathon Whitton, "When combined with conventional assistive devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, 'audiogames' of the type we describe here may be able to provide the hearing impaired with an improved ability to reconnect to the auditory world.”

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!


Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Game technology teaches mice, men to hear better in noisy environments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140609153427.htm (accessed October 28, 2014).

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