What Is Auditory Training?

Also Called Aural Rehabilitation

Auditory training is for individuals with hearing loss that is being treated via the use of hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Auditory training with senior wearing hearing aid
​Sigrid Gombert / Cultura / Getty Images

The training attempts to achieve an improved quality of life by addressing sensory issues related to hearing loss (sensory management), instruction in the use and maintenance of your hearing aid or cochlear implant, and perception training. Additionally, counseling may be used to improve coping skills.

Other names that may be used to refer to auditory training or aspects of auditory training include aural rehabilitation, hearing training, speech perception training, sentence training, or even consonant or vowel training.

Who Is a Candidate for Auditory Training?

Candidates for auditory training include most individuals who have hearing loss which can be treated via the use of a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Auditory training is necessary for the best treatment outcomes due to the fact that these devices do not restore hearing to its original function. This is especially true of cochlear implants but an estimated 40% of hearing aids sold are not used at all or are not used to their optimal ability.

A very simplified way to explain why this is is to say that after experiencing hearing loss for a period of time the brain and the ears become out of sync. Auditory training can help restore the pathways in the brain that are used to interpret sound and improve your ability to interpret the speech of other people and your ability to respond with clear speech.

Method

Depending on your individual circumstances you may benefit from all or some of the following components which make up a comprehensive auditory training program.

Sensory Management

This component of auditory training is the part where a hearing aid or cochlear implant improves your sense of hearing. They accomplish this by improving your ability to hear sound. But in order to get the most use out of these devices, you will need the next component of auditory training, instruction.

Instruction

This can consist of general instructions about how to properly care for and maintain your new hearing device. For example, how to adjust the volume, charge the device or change the batteries, how to keep it clean and functioning properly, etc.

Depending on your situation you may also benefit from other technology, such as a special telephone, and may require instruction on the use of these devices as well. This may be accomplished through coaching via demonstration, verbal explanation, or written materials.

Perceptual Training

This often consists of drills that help you to better interpret sound or speech with vowel and consonant training (often available in digital formats). It also consists of training to better interpret visual cues that can assist you in following conversations, understanding when the person you are talking to has not understood what you have said, and giving appropriate responses during a conversation.

Perceptual training can help you learn to interpret sounds that you have never heard before, tell the difference between sounds and whole words, make your speech more clear, and even help you to interpret and better enjoy music. You may also learn how to modify your environment in ways that will allow you to communicate best.

Counseling

It is a well-documented fact that hearing loss often contributes to social isolation and decreased quality of life. The loss of meaningful communication between yourself and others can hurt relationships. Additionally, hearing loss can lead to decreased enjoyment of life due to the inability to hear conversations, television, live performances, or music, for example. Employment is also often affected. Feelings of depression are not uncommon.

The psychological effects of hearing loss are usually different in adults than in children. Children may experience learning difficulties in school which may lead to poor self-esteem or behavioral problems for example.

Like adults, children with hearing loss often struggle in their interactions with peers. Visible hearing aids or a cochlear implant may further differentiate them from their peers at an age where differences are seldom valued. This may result in a negative effect on their image of themselves.

Hearing loss in adults is often an acquired condition that they have not always experienced. This can lead to feelings of anger and denial in addition to affecting relationships and employment, and to general feelings of loss related to decreased enjoyment, ability, and quality of life.

Rapid hearing loss may be more difficult to cope with than a gradual decrease in hearing. This is due to the fact that a slow loss of hearing over time can give an individual time to better adapt to the condition and compensate.

Regardless of your age or circumstances, a professional therapist may help you to work through many of the feelings associated with these issues, and assist you in managing your expectations for your new hearing device.

Meeting with others who have experienced hearing loss in an in-person or online support group may also be beneficial. Children often benefit from mental health services provided through the school system.

Providers

Auditory training is traditionally provided in person by a speech language pathologist but programs are increasingly becoming available via the internet or smartphone apps. This technology makes auditory training more accessible as well as more affordable.

However, some aspects of auditory training may still need to be done with a trained medical professional in person. Many people may struggle with the motivation required for a home-based digital program and may do better with in-person training.

Since all digital apps are not created equal, it is best to consult your audiologist or speech pathologist before choosing a digital option for auditory training.

Does Auditory Training Really Work?

How beneficial auditory training depends on a variety of factors including how involved you are in the training process and how willing you are to work at it, your individual hearing circumstances, the type of hearing device you are using, and more.

There is evidence that certain components of auditory training certainly improve the ability to hear sound but it is harder to measure the effect of auditory training on quality of life, for example, since this is largely due to an individual's own perception.

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Article Sources
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