Successful hearing aid use is often a combination of properly fit hearing instruments, patient compliance and an individualized audiologic rehabilitation program (AR). One of the biggest challenges facing new hearing aid wearers is relearning to process the sounds that have been muted over time by hearing loss.
Hearing aids are charged with the difficult task of effectively compensating for an inadequate auditory system even in the most challenging listening environments. Depending on the degree and type of hearing loss, the use of hearing aids alone may not fully compensate for a compromised auditory system. For that reason, a complete approach to hearing healthcare often includes AR.
AR programs help those with hearing loss develop skills and compensatory strategies for challenging listening environments. AR focuses on improving both auditory function and auditory behavior. Retraining the brain through rehabilitation programs can help expedite acclimatization to hearing aids.
Audiologic rehabilitation for adults first began in military programs following World War II. These programs focused on improving speech recognition beginning with phonemes (syllables) and moving on to longer sentences as the training program progressed. As the listener’s performance improved, the signal-to-noise ratio would decrease, making repetition more challenging.
Current AR programs are often utilized following a hearing aid fitting. Typically, computer-based programs combine auditory and auditory-visual speech perception tasks. These programs can be accessed through hearing healthcare professionals. Some are also available for download and can be completed at home.
Starkey Hearing Technologies has developed a suite of listening games which make up the mobile application Hear Coach. The program can be downloaded for free after the listener’s hearing aids have been registered by their hearing healthcare professional at MyStarkey.com.
Hear Coach is designed to challenge the listener’s auditory skills with interactive listening games. The games were designed for all types of listeners including new hearing aid wearers, experienced hearing aid wearers and even individuals who suspect they may have hearing loss. The app allows users to track their progress over time and challenge themselves as performance improves. Auditory training programs like Hear Coach have been shown to improve listening ability in noise, which can reduce the amount of effort needed for effective communication.
Data from published studies have shown that AR programs can improve an individual’s performance with hearing aids, most notably for older adults. Additionally, support from a loved one and motivation on the part of the participant can positively affect the outcomes of AR training programs. If you are interested in beginning an auditory training program you can discuss the available options with your hearing healthcare professional. You can also download Hear Coach from the App Store on iTunes.
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