We know puzzles, word games, and self-help books are popular methods for helping people with focus, memory, sharpness, etc., but can brain training also assist in something as clinical as hearing loss? A new report suggests that may be the case. While it is considered a small study, the findings could have major implications for the future of hearing loss treatment.
The issue at hand
Researchers set out to help aging individuals who struggle with hearing loss or tinnitus improve their ability to follow a conversation in a noisy setting, which is difficult even with hearing aids. Science has coined the term “neural slowing” – a natural side effect of getting older where brains become slower to process information. While hearing aids do a great job in amplifying the volume of sounds, they cannot make up for decreased speeds of natural processing.
About the research
Twenty four hearing aid-wearing adults participated in the study and were asked to play computer games for eight weeks. Half of the group’s games were focused on improving their ability to follow conversations, while half were centered on memory improvement (no link to hearing).
What they found
Participants who played the conversation games could identify 25 percent more words in spoken sentences than those who played the memory games, suggesting the hearing exercises were effective. “The use of auditory perceptual training is fairly well established in training individuals to cope with tinnitus and to assist hearing impaired patients (especially the elderly) to hear and process speech more efficiently in noisy situations,” audiologist Dr. Allen Senne told Reuters.
What this means
Before we mark this up as a win for the hearing loss community, it should be noted the results were apparent yet fleeting. Participants were asked to come in seven weeks after their training courses finished to assess the status of their hearing, and results from those follow-up tests revealed the benefits had worn off after seven weeks without games. As such, hearing aids are still the most tried and true method of helping hearing loss, but it’s exciting to know other techniques are being considered.