Benefits of auditory training for people with hearing loss

Chief investigator

Dr Melanie Ferguson

Study team

Dr Helen Henshaw
Dr Daniel Clark
Professor Dave Moore

Funder

NIHR Nottingham Hearing BRU programme

Study period

2009-2013

Background and rationale:

Although hearing problems cause difficulties in everyday life, it is estimated that about 75 percent of people with a hearing problem do not own a hearing aid. Auditory training is an alternative or complimentary intervention that may help alleviate the difficulties associated with hearing loss. Auditory training involves actively listening to sounds such as tones, parts of words (phonemes), or whole words, over a period of time. This improves ability to process these sounds, which can in turn help improve listening and communication. This study investigates how auditory training can benefit people with a hearing loss who do not own hearing aids.

Methods:

- Adults aged 50-74 years of age with mild sensorineural (age-related) hearing loss were recruited via GP practices in Nottinghamshire.
- Auditory training (phonemes) was delivered at home via loaned laptops for 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week over 4 weeks.
- Benefits of auditory training were measured using tests of speech perception, cognition and self-reported hearing.
- Focus groups were held to examine participants experiences and to explore their motivations for engagement and compliance with auditory training.

Results:

Benefits of auditory training were most evident in challenging listening situations and these benefits appear to be driven by improvements in cognition (attention and working memory), that support our ability to listen. Participants in the study were motivated to do the training because of their hearing difficulties (extrinsic motivation), but were motivated to continue training by a desire to improve on their previous scores (intrinsic motivation). After training, some participants reported greater motivation to seek additional help for their hearing difficulties.

Ferguson, MA. Henshaw, H. Clark, DPA. Moore, DM. (2014). Benefits of phoneme discrimination training in a randomized controlled trial of 50-74 year olds with mild hearing loss.  Ear & Hearing, 35(4), e110-e121

Two members of public talking

Participants taking part in a focus group to discuss their experiences with auditory training

Click here to view a brief PDF summary of the video

Testimonials – auditory training participants

“If you are sitting around with ten at a table, you can’t listen to everybody, it’s impossible.  The best hearing in the world wouldn’t do that.  But, it does make you, or it did make me want to listen to the one person I was facing, or even the person next to me, like three or four in  a group.  You could do that better.”

“…you’ve not been listening before, you are now listening.”

“I think the primary thing is identifying that there is a problem in the first place.  We have, and so we have got the motivation to actually do something about it, which your programme is good at…”