Home Based Program Helps People With Hearing Loss Listen Up If I had a penny for every time a patient told me, “I can hear just fine, she just mumbles,” I’d be rich! And, if you’re reading this, chances are that you or someone you know has a hearing loss and you’ve probably heard something very similar. Maybe you have your own explanation for not hearing your spouse or loved one. Here’s another one I hear fairly often: “If she wouldn’t talk to me from another room, I’d hear her just fine.” That reminds me of a joke I once heard.
It goes something like this: A man suspected his wife of having a hearing loss. So, he decided to test it out. He stood behind her a few feet while she cooked dinner. He asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” No answer. So, he stepped closer and asked again, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” Still no answer. So he stepped even closer and asked once again, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” and he finally got a response…”For the THIRD time…Chicken!” Sound familiar?
Hearing instruments have come a long way to help people with hearing loss to hear in many different listening situations. But, there will still be situations that most people with hearing loss will find difficult, even with the latest technology advancements. One of these is hearing in a background of noise. In fact, hearing in noise is the number one complaint of hearing instrument wearers. But the fact of the matter is it may not be just the instruments. It may be you!
We know that the mechanical, working part of the ear – the outer ear canal, the eardrum, middle ear bones and the cochlea – are what help us to hear. But, it’s what happens after the sound reaches our brain that helps us to listen. Hearing instruments provide the means by which a hearing loss can be overcome. They make sounds more hearable. But they can’t help a person listen or understand the message being delivered to the ear from the hearing aid. Even people with normal hearing can be poor listeners. Anyone with a teenager in the family can testify to that! Good listening skills are one of several important components for making sure the message is understood clearly. In addition, confidence in your listening skills is important in helping you to understand conversation. These skills can be damaged by acquiring hearing loss and by the “accumulation of birthdays.”
So, if hearing instruments aren’t the only answer, what can you do? If you ask most audiologists that question, they’ll tell you Aural Rehabilitation is the key, which generally consists of group classes where new skills for better listening are practiced. But “rehab” tends to have a negative connotation that can stir up bad memories of lip reading classes or long and tedious courses that sometimes have little benefit. What if there was another option? What if there was a way to help yourself better understand what you are hearing with very little time or effort? Sound too good to be true? Well, there is such a program. It is a training program that can help those with hearing loss listen more effectively. It’s called LACE – Listening and Communication Enhancement and you can think about it like a Physical Therapy for your brain.
Just as physical therapy is necessary after an injury, training to improve your listening skills is necessary if you have had a hearing loss for any length of time. And, even more incredible is the fact that even people with normal hearing have found this program helpful in the difficult situation of listening in background noise. If you don’t have any trouble hearing in quiet, but notice that you strain to understand in a noisy situation, this program may be for you!
Of the patients that have completed the program nationally, most have shown at least a 30% increase in their listening abilities in noise and many are above 40% improvement! That’s incredible! More importantly is what I have been hearing from patients in our practice. One person told me, “I notice I’m more confident when I’m out with friends.” Another told me, “LACE taught me to pay attention better, which takes the pressure to HEAR off of me.”
The greatest thing about LACE is that it is a home-based program. You can do it at home on your computer at your own pace. There is even a DVD version for the not-so-computer-saavy. The program will take you step-by-step through individualized training sessions. Each 30-minute session is designed to provide a variety of interactive and adaptive tasks that will help train your brain to listen and communicate more effectively. Even better is the fact that each session is tracked via the internet and scores are provided to your audiologist. This allows her to review your progress and review with you where your struggles are or what you might need to focus on more intently.
LACE has truly been a great addition to our clinic and for our patients. If you’d like more information, check out or make an appointment to talk with us about LACE training. I think you’ll like what you hear.