Hearing loss can be devastating. Not only are you struggling to hear the sounds around you, your quality of life decreases as you have trouble communicating with your friends and loved ones. Don’t you wish there was some way to improve your hearing? A new study shows that training your brain might be the answer to slowing hearing loss, and improving your ability to hear in places where there’s a lot of background noise.
Hearing Loss and Your Brain
Most people assume that when they can’t hear, there’s something wrong with their ears. This isn’t exactly true. As you age, and as you’re exposed to loud noises, your ears do get damaged. The hair cells in the inner ear that are responsible for sending auditory signals to the brain wear down and are destroyed. However, this is just one part of hearing loss. The other side of hearing loss happens in the brain, along the auditory pathway and in the auditory cortex, the area of your brain that translates the electrical impulse received from the ear and interprets the sounds around you. One area that’s particularly affected as you age is the region of the brain that processes speech sounds. With fewer cells to handle all the incoming sounds, you have difficulty understanding speech, especially in places with a lot of background noise.
Brain Training: Helping You Hear
An exciting new study might have a solution to help you hear better. Published in Current Biology, the study worked with a group of 24 seniors who all had hearing loss, and wore hearing aids to manage their hearing health. For eight weeks, they participated in video game training for three to four hours per week. The results were incredible. After just eight weeks, half the seniors improved their ability to understand speech in noisy environments by 25%! Tested in an environment similar to that of a noisy restaurant, these seniors were able to identify 25% more words than they could before they started the training.
Musical Brain Training
Hold on. Only half the seniors saw improvements in speech processing? The half that were able to hear better all played a video game that had a strong musical component. The object of the video game was to identify small changes in tone, like something you’d hear in a song. As the game got harder, the levels of background sounds got louder, making it harder to pinpoint the tones. The other half, the ones that didn’t improve their hearing, played a memory game, like games you’d see in Luminosity, or other brain-training games. Sadly, the group playing the memory game didn’t improve their hearing. However, this research is a real game changer, since it proves that training your brain, provided you’re using the right training, can in fact improve your hearing drastically!
Why Consistent Training is Important
We all know that practice makes perfect, and that any skill you develop will be lost if you don’t keep working at it. And brain training is no different. Once the participants stopped training, it only took a few months for all their gains to disappear, and they were right back at the same level of hearing they had at the beginning. Regular practice is the key to maintaining, and further improving, speech processing and overall hearing.
Brain Training and Hearing Aids
So, does training your brain eliminate the need for hearing aids? While brain training helps your brain get better at hearing, and this video game could help you hear more clearly in noise, developing skills simply can’t replace a hearing aid. While the participant’s hearing improved by 25%, and that added acuity could make all the difference in an enjoyable dinner party, hearing aids are still the front-line solution to hearing loss.
Researchers suggest that combining brain training with hearing aids will help you get the most from your hearing devices, and can help improve hearing in one area where hearing aids sometimes struggle, understanding speech in situations where there’s a lot of background noise.
If you want to get the most out of your hearing aids, visit us at My Hearing Centers to discuss our advanced hearing devices that will have you hearing clearly in quiet and in noise.