For 20% of Americans, hearing loss is a part of life. As the third most common medical condition in the US, hearing loss may happen to anyone at any age.
Hearing loss tends to be an incredibly isolating condition, due to its adverse effects on our ability to communicate. When left untreated, hearing loss could harm our interpersonal relationships with our loved ones.
Hearing loss is most commonly treated with the prescription of hearing aids. Hearing aids are selected to treat your specific hearing needs, with fine-tuning to ensure the best listening experience. The adjustment period for new hearing aids requires patience and practice, but over time, people with hearing loss experience significant benefits.
A new software developed at Washington University in St. Louis combines the experience of adjusting to hearing aids and your loved ones’ voices to help you hear better.
Customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation
At the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Dr. Nancy Tye-Murray has developed new software to help older Americans improve speech recognition with their hearing devices. Dr. Tye-Murray was motivated by the long-lasting effects of untreated hearing loss: “Hearing loss destroys self-identity. The inability to hear and participate in everyday conversations is isolating and can destroy relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. In my lab, we have been developing computer software to help adults and children with hearing loss practice listening, helping train the ear to better understand the people who are most important in their lives.”
Along with Brent Spehar, a research scientist at Washington University, Dr. Tye-Murray has launched a startup company for her software, known as “customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation” or clEAR. Designed for people who are getting used to listening with hearing loss, clEAR is a user-friendly software with games that help people recognize common words and sounds in their daily life.
According to Dr. Tye-Murray, clEAR “includes traditional generic voices, but we also have a recording and editing system that lets patients train with the voices of people they most want to hear – often spouses, children, or grandchildren. The patient’s spouse, for example, sits down and records the samples. Our software edits the audio clips. As soon as the recording is finished, the patient can begin training with his or her spouse’s voice.”
Though it may seem like a small change between a generic computerized voice and that of your loved one, Dr. Tye-Murray’s research has found that this small edit makes a big difference. Her work has found that “patients show improved recognition of a spouse’s speech when practicing with the spouse’s voice, compared with practicing with generic voices that are part of all other auditory training programs.”
If you are interested in trying out the clEAR software, visit their website here.
Adjusting to New Hearing Aids
If you have recently been diagnosed with a hearing loss and fitted for hearing aids, the experience of sound may be overwhelming at first. The period of adjustment requires some time and patience in order to truly experience the benefits of hearing aids. It does take time to get used to amplified, crystal-clear sound. Here are a few tips for adjusting.
Avoid wearing your hearing aids immediately in loud situations, such as a restaurant or a grocery store. Start slowly at first, wearing your hearing aids around your home. Get used to your own voice by reading aloud to yourself.
As you grow more comfortable, invite your loved ones over for coffee or a meal. Ease into conversations with them. During these visits, avoid playing music in the background and turn off any other distractions (TV, radio, etc.). Even if you do not invest in clEAR technology, you can practice with your loved one’s voice – and enjoy quality time together in the process!
How Hearing Loss Affects Relationships
Healthy communication is the foundation of healthy relationships. Through conversation, we share ourselves and our inner worlds with one another. With hearing loss, speech recognition becomes difficult, leading to poor communication. In turn, this could lead to unhealthy relationships, in which people become frustrated and isolated.
If you are experiencing changes in your hearing and have yet to take a hearing test, contact us today at Fidelity Hearing Center. We provide comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings to ensure healthy communication with your loved ones.