physiotherapy for the brain

Patients often tell me regardless of using hearing aids or not, that they struggle to hear what people are saying in places like restaurants and pubs, or even when watching their favourite TV shows.

I’ve joined forces with Professor of Otolaryngology from Washington School of Medicine, Nancy-Tye-Murray, to give you a type of brain training which enables you to hear better in all manner of environments.

To better explain, I welcome Nancy:

Are hearing and listening the same thing?
Surprisingly, they are not. Hearing allows you to receive acoustic information (speech) while listening requires your brain to attend to and interpret speech. For example, once a speech signal enters your ear, your brain must rapidly process each word and hold that string of words in memory long enough to comprehend and make sense of its meaning. Not only must your brain distinguish each word from all other possible words, but it must invoke mental skills such as auditory memory, auditory attention, and auditory processing speed in order for you to engage successfully in conversation.

Does normal or aided hearing guarantee that I am an effective listener?
Having normal hearing or using a hearing aid will not automatically make you an effective listener. Some people with normal hearing are poor listeners while some people with hearing loss are excellent listeners. With a little effort and appropriate instruction, you can train yourself to become a good listener, even if you have considerable hearing loss.

Can hearing aids solve all of my listening problems?
Although hearing aids will reduce listening problems, hearing aids alone cannot develop the listening and mental skills that are necessary to comprehend conversations. Hearing aids provide access to sound by making them louder and even a little clearer, but they do not train your brain to interpret speech and they cannot correct the distortions that are caused by “nerve deafness”. Even the most technologically advanced hearing aids cannot provide perfectly clear representations of speech.

How does hearing loss change my brain?
When you begin to lose your hearing, those pathways in your brain that used to be designated to understanding speech begin to reorganise and rewire themselves. As a result, you may have lost some of the mental tools that are necessary to process and comprehend speech.

If I begin to use hearing aids, will my brain automatically regain those mental skills that I lost because of hearing loss?
Possibly, but if this does happen, regaining them will take a long time and you may never become the listener that you were before you acquired hearing loss. However, help is available.

Auditory Brain Training triggers and accelerates your brain’s rebuilding process. When someone has difficulty walking because of a bum hip and when they receive a hip replacement, they receive physical therapy. Auditory Brain Training is like receiving physical therapy for the brain; it trains the brain so you can better comprehend speech.

Can Auditory Brain Training benefit a person who has worn hearing aids for a number of years?
Many people who have worn hearing aids for years can still experience communication dif culties because hearing aids do not provide a perfect representation of sound. When patients invest some time and effort to complete auditory brain training, they are often much better able to benefit from the amplification provided by their hearing aids. Improvement in conversational fluency is not just getting used to the new hearing aids, it is also a process of the brain developing the neurological connections for better listening skills.

Thank-you Nancy for explaining more.

If you feel you can’t hear so well, whether you have a hearing loss or use hearing aids or not, auditory brain training may be the help you require to keep you in the conversation.

Training can be done from the comfort of your own home, the train, or even your lunch break, using any electronic device you have to hand – from a laptop to iPad to even your phone. This works best in combination with some sessions in my clinic (or Skype!) to monitor progress. The initial training is a 3 month commitment and then if you like it and would like to continue beyond this, you are welcome to do so for as long as you like.