Pediatrics, Technology, Clinical Practice

Auditory skills training, anytime, anywhere!

Making sense of all the wonderful new sounds that hearing technology provides can take practice. HearingSuccess™ portal is filled with online resources so those with new hearing technology can start honing their auditory skills right away.

When a person or family comes into your office for audiological support, is providing hearing technology always enough? Well, literature suggests it might not be – that we need to train the brain to interpret new auditory information.1-3 What that means is that hearing technology gives us the ability to hear the sounds around us but our brains don’t necessarily immediately make sense of all the new sounds it receives. Sensory management (or hearing management) is only one component of improving communication. That’s why a holistic hearing approach that includes a plan for optimizing communication skills is so valuable.

Auditory skills training is designed to stimulate the auditory centers of the brain. For children, it can help strengthen pathways that are important for language, listening and cognitive development.4 For adults, it can help with speech perception and enhancing cognitive skills associated with hearing loss (focus, attention, processing speed, working memory, etc.)5-6 And let’s not forget the well-being benefits. With auditory training practice, those with new hearing technology can enhance their listening skills in different listening environments giving them confidence communicating in the real world.7 Not only that, but when listening exercises are started immediately after receiving new devices, they are likely to adjust to their hearing technology more quickly.

Overcoming obstacles of in-person (re)habilitation

The reality is that in-person auditory skills training with a trained speech/auditory therapist is ideal, but not always possible. There are a slew of possible reasons why a person or family who comes into your office might not be able to access in-person aural rehabilitation services – there might be financial obstacles, long distance to services, lack of local trained professionals or perhaps an issue of not qualifying for services. And for those who are fortunate enough to have in-person (re)habilitation, they might even want to supplement that therapy by practicing their listening skills at home.

That’s where online auditory skills training becomes invaluable. It makes it possible for those who are not able to afford in-person sessions…it overcomes distance for those who live remotely… it gives those who do not qualify for services an opportunity to practice their listening skills. It is self-directed learning which has the benefit of improving confidence, ownership and better outcomes.8,9

What I also love about online training is that it gives parents of young children with new hearing technology opportunities to work on their child’s early communication skills in the comfort of their home and progress through activities at their own pace. When activities are fun and engaging, they are a perfect opportunity to bond while working on speech and language development.

A few perks for older children and adults are that it gives them the freedom to practice their listening skills while on the go (maybe on the commute home from work or school) or in the evenings (so they don’t have to miss school or work). It give them opportunities to practice their communication skills even when they don’t have a communication partner around to practice with (this is a big plus for older adults who live alone!). And with social distancing measures in place due to COVID-19, being able to work on communication skills without leaving the house for a face-to-face visit is appealing for many. And when practicing at home, there is no need to wear a face mask so they have access to visual cues.

HearingSuccess portal – online resources in one place

Phonak and Advanced Bionics have come together to offer HearingSuccess which is a program that supports successful hearing along the whole hearing journey. It provides parents, children and adults with a place to start before, during and after they get their hearing technology. It also makes it easy for hearing care professionals to recommend support resources to families and adult patients.

The HearingSuccess portal is filled with online auditory skills training resources and other helpful links such as product pages and online communities for those with hearing loss. All your clients have to do is go onto the website, HearingSuccess.com, and register. Once they are registered, the page is customized so that the resources are relevant for their needs. They get:

  • Automatic visibility of resources.
  • Displayed resources are specific to the user type and hearing technology used.
  • Easy access on a single webpage
  • Auditory access can be further enhanced with Roger technology or direct streaming

What types of resources are available?

Resources displayed will vary, depending on age (e.g., child or adult) and the type of hearing technology used (HA or CI). For example, when parents of a young child fit with bilateral hearing aids register, they will see resources like BabyBeats™ early intervention app which is designed to develop early listening and communication skills through musical activities. They will also see links to other parent resources and parent guides.

And for adults with hearing loss, they will also get a customized page. They will get resources like:

SoundSuccess™ which is an interactive dynamic functional listening program designed to build communication confidence and reinforce the brain’s ability to perceive and understand spoken language. It is unique because it gives users the ability to customize their practice. They can choose to see (use visual cues) while listening to speakers or use listening alone. The program gives real-time feedback and tracks functional hearing status over time.

WordSuccess™* which is a mobile app designed to improve word and phrase discrimination in quiet and in noise. What is particularly appealing about this app is that it has a placement test and tracks functional hearing status over time. It offers increasing levels of difficulty and scores can be shared with you during audiological appointments so you can monitor their progress.

How can it help? Here’s a testimonial!

I recently chatted with a colleague at Sonova, Stephanie Pleuss, who uses bimodal technology (Advanced Bionics CI and Phonak hearing aid). I was telling her about our new HearingSuccess portal and she told me that she is a big fan of auditory training and uses SoundSuccess regularly. Here’s what she had to say:

“I use auditory training to improve my ability to listen with my CI and hearing aid. What I like about auditory training is it empowers me to enhance my ability to hear in various situations that I find difficult. I practice word pairs that sound similar, such as ‘bear’ and ‘pear’. With the speech in noise module, I train my ability to focus my attention when ambient noise interferes with conversation. Because I work in a multinational/multicultural environment with many accents, training gives me the opportunity to learn the different pronunciations without the risk of missing out on important information.

And I incorporate this training into my life, just like I incorporate fitness, 3 times a week increase my listening abilities. For a few weeks after a new CI mapping, I do auditory training almost daily to help acclimate myself to my new map. I find it helps me get up to speed faster. Over time 20-30 minute sessions a couple times a week give me enough of a workout without being exhausting or overly time consuming.”

This testimonial makes me smile. It reminds me that auditory skills training is truly like fitness training. With regular practice, you see results and you keep getting better and more confident with time! And with the auditory skills training resources in HearingSuccess, there’s no limit to how much practice is possible!

How do you offer this to your patients?

This is the easy part. As a hearing care professional, simply refer your patients to the HearingSuccess portal at Hearingsuccess.com and they will have access to a full suite of resources to help them be successful communicators and make the most of their hearing technology. And the next time they come back for a follow-up visit, ask them if they feel more confident communicating with their new devices after practicing with HearingSuccess resources. I bet they will say yes!

 

The new HearingSuccess portal can be accessed at www.HearingSuccess.com. Available for hearing aid users in English only at this time.

* available in coming weeks

References

  1. Olson, A.D. (2015). Options for auditory training for adults with hearing loss. Seminars in Hearing, 36(4):284–295.
  2. Ferguson, M., & Henshaw, H. (2015, November). How does auditory training work? Joined-up thinking and listening. Seminars in Hearing, 36(4), 237-249.
  3. Anderson, S., & Kraus, N. (2013). Auditory training: Evidence for neural plasticity in older adults. Perspectives on hearing and hearing disorders. Research and Research Diagnostics; 17, 37–57.
  4. Beck, D.L., Flexer, C. (2011) Listening is where hearing meets brain…in children and adults. Hearing Review, 18(2):30-35
  5. Ferguson, M., & Henshaw, H. (2015, November). How does auditory training work? Joined-up thinking and listening. Seminars in Hearing, 36(4), 237-249.
  6. Anderson, S., & Kraus, N. (2013). Auditory Training: Evidence for Neural Plasticity in Older Adults. Perspectives on hearing and hearing disorders. Research and Research Diagnostics, 17, 37–57.
  7. Cardemil, F., Aguayo, L., & Fuente, A. (2014). Auditory rehabilitation programmes for adults: what do we know about their effectiveness? Acta Otorrinolaringologica (English Edition), 65(4), 249-257.
  8. Malmberg, M., Lunner, T., Kähäri K, & Andersson, G. (2017). Evaluating the short-term and long-term effects of an internet-based aural rehabilitation programme for hearing aid users in general clinical practice: a randomised controlled trial. Bmj Open.
  9. Cullington, H., Kitterick, P., DeBold, L., Weal, M., Clarke, N., Newberry, E., & Aubert, L. (2016). Personalised long-term follow-up of cochlear implant patients using remote care, compared with those on the standard care pathway: study protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled trial. BMJ open, 6(5).

 

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