HEARING AIDS AND BRAIN TRAINING, PART 2

4. What technology is available to help train my brain?

In part 1, we talked about the concept of brain training. We touched on the importance of audiologists in the process (how they help patients understand the unique particulars of their hearing loss, how they help decide on an aid to best help them hear, listen, and retain information in noise) as well as the patient (listening vs. hearing, the importance of not withdrawing).

In part 2, we want to focus on specific technology.

LACE technology (which we’ve written about before) is one of the most important pieces of brain training technology on the market.

LACE stands for Listening and Communication Enhancement, and helps re-teach the brains of those with hearing loss:

“Conceived by leading audiologists at the University of California at San Francisco and implemented by silicon valley software veterans, LACE® Auditory Training programs retrain the brain to comprehend speech up to 40% better in difficult listening situations such as:

  • Noisy Restaurants
  • Rapid speakers
  • Competing speakers

Just as physical therapy can help rebuild muscles and adjust movements to compensate for physical weakness or injury, LACE will help develop skills and strategies to deal with situations when hearing is inadequate.”

REM offers our patients the opportunity to utilize LACE to improve understanding in noise. If interested, patients will be given a special promotional code for the web based program, which they will enter at LaceListening.com. This will afford them 11 sessions that they can complete in the comfort of their own home. Patients will not be charged for this program unless they do not complete all 11 sessions, in which case they will be charged $50.

The patient’s results and progress can be monitored by their hearing professional, remotely. Additionally, patients will take a speech-in-noise test at the outset of their LACE training. They will be reassessed in 6 weeks following the completion of the course to monitor progress. If patients found the sessions helpful, they are able to purchase the “LACE Home Edition Software or DVD” that offers 20 sessions with unlimited review.

5. What hearing aids are best?

This is a big topic. Hearing aids span a wide range, from the basic to the premium. Each aid will have its own advantages and its own technology.

Most premium aids, however, have something called aid to aid communication. Aid to aid communication allows hearing aids to work in synchrony to mimic the normal function of your ears, resulting in a more natural and beneficial sound quality. When the hearing aids communicate with each other, they communicate better with your brain.

Several premium hearing aids that REM offers include the Widex Dream 440, the Oticon Alta 2 Pro, and the Phonak Audeo V 90. Aids can be purchased in a a variety of styles.

6. Technology outside of aids

Any technology that helps your hearing plays a role in brain training. Somewhere between LACE Technology and hearing aids are assisted listening devices. These are devices that can pair with your aids to help in noisier than average situations.

One of the most effective assistive listening devices on the market today is the remote microphone. Most manufacturers that REM works with have some form of remote microphone, and this device can help dramatically improve the “signal to noise ratio” of a person’s voice over the background noise.

The remote mic is either worn on a lapel or placed near a desired sound source, which will then send the signal to a receiver to be processed in the hearing aids. This overcomes the obstacle of distance, and gives listeners the ability to clearly hear an individual sitting across the table from them, even in a noisy restaurant.

The Phonak Roger Pen is the most advanced version of the remote microphone on the market today, and can even stream bluetooth audio or TV to the hearing aids. The Roger Pen also has a directional microphone that changes its range of detection based on the orientation of the pen. This allows for individuals to hear well in any listening environment from a group meeting to a one-on-one dinner conversation.

The technology and industry behind helping people cope with hearing loss is a topic no one could fully explore in one blog post, but we hope this is a good overview of the brain-aid interface. And always remember: no matter how much trouble you have with your hearing, there are always ways, devices, and practices to help you improve.