Brain training to help with hearing loss?

News release

From: NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

For release: Embargoed until 00.01 3 March 2018

Nottingham researchers test “brain training” games to improve the lives of people with hearing loss

On World Hearing Day (3 March 2018), researchers at the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) announce they are to test out the feasibility of using online gaming techniques to help people adjust to and cope better with hearing loss and hearing aids.

The team, which includes clinicians, scientists, researchers and patients from the University of Nottingham; Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH); and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (SFH), are about to start developing new online training packages, which use techniques taken directly from the world of brain training and computer games to improve listening and cognition for hearing aid users.

Although hearing aids substantially improve access to quiet sounds for people with hearing loss, hearing aid users often continue to face difficulties listening in background noise. Working with software developers Ounce Technology Ltd, the training “games” will be specifically designed with patients to help those with hearing loss listen well in challenging everyday situations such as noisy environments.

From 1 October 2018, people attending NUH and SFH Audiology departments to receive hearing aids for the first time will be invited to take part in the research. Patients will be randomly assigned to either test one of two new online training games in addition to standard care, or to receive the existing support and advice from audiologists. Those testing the games will be asked to go online on a regular basis over a four-week period, during which their experiences will be monitored. Researchers are aiming to gain a better understanding of how practical it is for patients to use the games at home and the costs of providing this type of support on a larger scale.

This feasibility study comes on the back of a growing body of research, much of it led by audiologists and scientists in Nottingham, that computer-based auditory training provides benefits to listening and cognition for people with hearing loss. Using online techniques also has the benefit of being accessible to people in their own homes and communities, without the need for additional visits to hospitals or clinics.

Dr Helen Henshaw, Senior Research Fellow for the NIHR Nottingham BRC, is a Cognitive Psychologist leading the team who will carry out the study. Helen believes this study is an important part of improving quality of life for people with hearing loss, like Susan Bailey.

Susan is a hearing aid user and public member of the research team, who has previously taken part in an auditory training study in Nottingham. Susan says: “The games were easy to use and easy to understand with instructions provided by the research team. I looked forward to completing them each day. Before and after training I visited the research unit to complete hearing, listening, memory and attention tests. After training I felt I was performing much better at these tests. I also noticed improvements in my day-to-day communication with others. This experience will give me valuable insight for assessing the patient experience in this feasibility study.”

There are 11 million people in the UK with long-term hearing loss. Hearing loss isolates people, cutting them off from colleagues, family and social networks. Currently people with hearing loss often receive a hearing aid to improve access to quiet sounds, but little or no support to help them overcome the difficulties of listening in noise.

Previous research has shown that as well as the amplification provided by hearing aids, patients benefit from the development of speech and cognitive skills (memory and attention), which can work together to improve their listening abilities. The Nottingham feasibility study will test out the practicalities of using games specifically designed to stimulate speech understanding, memory and attention skills, and how these might best be provided by NHS audiology services to help people with hearing loss to overcome the impact of hearing loss on their quality of life.

The results of this feasibility study will inform a future large-scale clinical trial which could potentially change the treatment and care for millions of people with hearing loss.


Notes to Editors:

For more information please contact:

Rachel Webster

Director of Communications and Engagement

NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.


M: 07825 267715

The Research Team

The study includes leading audiologists, scientists and patient representatives from Nottingham University Hospitals, Sherwood Forest Hospitals and the University of Nottingham. The researchers and clinicians are: Dr Helen Henshaw, Mrs Susan Bailey, patient representative; Dr Melanie Ferguson, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and University of Nottingham; Ms Claire Benton, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust; Ms Michelle Booth, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Miss Chloi Theriou, University of Nottingham; Dr Paul Leighton, University of Nottingham; Dr Antje Heinrich, University of Manchester; Dr Adele Horobin, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

About the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre

The NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is improving the health of millions of people with common diseases like asthma and arthritis. We drive innovation in experimental science and translate research into breakthrough treatments, innovative technologies and new medicines. Our world-leading research is in:

The NIHR Nottingham BRC is a partnership between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham, supported by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust. It is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) – the research arm of the NHS.

About the NIHR

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

For further information, visit the NIHR website