Hi guys. Rachael Cook, audiologist at Applied Hearing Solutions in Phoenix, Arizona, and in this video I'm going to tell you about the lesser known way to improve your speech understanding in background noise. Coming up!
Hearing in background noise continues to be the most reported and most significant difficulty faced by patients with hearing loss. Even with all of the advancements in hearing aid technology, noisy environments present a level of difficulty that just can't seem to be overcome. Modern design trends are somewhat to blame as most public spaces like restaurants tend to have high ceilings, hard floors, and a lot of reflective surfaces. This makes for a pretty noisy setting, especially as the occupancy increases worsened only by additional background noise like overhead music and open style kitchens. But what if I told you there was a way to improve your speech understanding and background noise without buying new hearing aids or even visiting your audiologist? But before we dive in, it would be a huge help if you could give this video a thumbs up to bring videos like these to a broader audience.
And while you're at it, make sure you subscribe to the channel so you never miss any one of our new videos. I really appreciate it. Now let's take a minute to review why hearing in background noise is so hard to begin with. How difficult it is to hear in background noise is dependent on the volume level of what you want to hear compared to the level of the background sounds. This is called a signal to noise ratio. For example, if you are having a one-on-one conversation with someone in a quiet room, their speech could be 10 decibels louder than the background sound. This results in a positive 10 decibel signal to noise ratio and positive signal to noise ratios make hearing and understanding much easier. However, if you take that conversation and put it in the middle of a noisy cafe, the level of the background sounds increase, often overpowering the speech.
If the background noise is 10 decibels louder than the speech you're trying to hear, this results in a negative 10 decibel signal to noise ratio and negative signal to noise ratios make hearing and understanding much harder. The amount of separation between what you are trying to hear and the background sounds determines how easy it is to understand. Now, this is true for all people. However, there are two distinct factors that make hearing in background noise even harder. Hearing loss and the aging process, depending on the type and level of hearing loss, volume, clarity or both are impacted, compromising your ability to hear what's being said even in ideal conditions. Add some background noise into the mix and the difficulty only rises. The aging process also has an impact on understanding and background noise because as we age, our processing speed and working memory decreases while our distractibility increases.
Even if your hearing remains in the normal range as you age, hearing in background noise will get harder because of these brain-based changes. Hearing aids do their very best to separate the speech from the background noise to accommodate for the hearing loss's impact on understanding in noisy environments, but hearing aids can struggle to reverse the impacts that aging has on following a conversation when there is competing sound. But what if I told you there is a lesser known way to improve your processing speed, working memory, and attention? There is, and it's called auditory training. Auditory training can be considered a workout for your ears consisting of activities and exercises that strengthen connections in the brain that are responsible for comprehension. These programs include exercises to improve understanding of speech and noise and rapid speech, as well as to increase auditory working memory. Perhaps the best part about auditory training is that traditional barriers to care like time, travel, and cost, are hardly even factors.
The time spent completing auditory training exercises is entirely up to you. Most programs range from four to 16 weeks of training exercises that you can complete on your own schedule. You can even remain in the comfort of your own home as a majority of programs are available via computer programs and mobile apps. The cost of these programs depends on the delivery method, but can be extremely affordable from as low as $10 a month with some programs that are even free. Now, the research available on auditory training is relatively limited, but a majority of available studies suggests that auditory training is worth a shot. For example, a 2017 study found that hearing aid users who practiced for just three and a half hours a week on auditory training tasks over an eight week period saw a 25% increase in correctly identifying words and sentences even in background noise.
Another 2020 systemic review of 16 research articles found that auditory training protocols overall did result in an improvement in auditory communication skills for patients with hearing loss. This was especially true when a combination approach was applied by using both properly fit hearing aids and auditory training programs. Future research is still needed to solidify the exact program length and delivery model that results in the highest amount of benefit. However, given that auditory training programs are non-invasive and extremely low risk, it's definitely worth considering. There are many auditory training programs available today like LACE, clEAR, Angel Sound, and Amptify. But if you're not ready to commit to a training program just yet, game-based mobile apps are available to play wherever you are whenever you want. And if training programs or games don't really sound like your thing, consider listening to podcasts or audio books that can sharpen your listening comprehension with the ability to rewind as many times as needed. Overall auditory training is extremely accessible, generally low cost, and available in many different fun formats. If you're looking for a way to sharpen your listening comprehension, give auditory training a try. That's it for this video. If you liked it, be sure to give it a thumbs up and check the description box below for a list of different auditory training programs to find which one is the right fit for you, and definitely hit that subscribe button so you don't miss any one of our new videos released each week.
Recent research has discovered that hearing loss treatment could in fact slow down the cognitive decline.Read More