You hear with your ears. Everyone knows that. But you also hear with your brain. Have you ever been presented with a new popular song and from then on you realize that it plays everywhere, at the store, on the radio, or in the elevator. You have been “hearing” it for months, but never “heard” it. Now that you know it, you notice it. This is the way our brain works. Takes away the “noise” of our entire sensory environment and focuses on the things that we care about. Once we train our brain to focus on something new, we start to hear it. This is much like Auditory Therapy, teaching our brains what we hear.
So why does it matter?
Well, your brain follows the old adage: Use it or lose it. It is constantly rewiring itself. So, in a manner of speaking, your brain shrinks when hearing loss is untreated. After a period of hearing loss, when your brain hasn’t been receiving as much meaningful sound as it used to, it stops using a large amount of the neurological pathways associated with hearing.
What Exactly is Auditory Therapy?
Auditory Therapy works like Physical Therapy. After knee surgery, your doctor prescribes Physical Therapy to speed up the process of re-learning to walk correctly, despite the fact that you already knew how to walk. When you begin to receive sound signals to your brain again, your brain will probably eventually learn how to process those sounds into hearing. Auditory Therapy makes the process of listening and understanding happen much more quickly and more effectively.
In many cases, hearing loss doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t hear sound. More likely sounds are distorted by damaged nerves in the inner ear. The problem is more pronounced in noisy situations, when you need to distinguish voices from background sounds. Auditory Therapy helps you develop skills and strategies to deal with these types of situations, when your inner ear hearing distortion causes word understanding problems.
Can they make my current hearing aid devices perform better?
When you get hearing aids, and you begin to hear sounds more clearly, some degree of neural rebuilding occurs, but it may not be enough, and it may take a very long time. Auditory Therapy jump starts this rebuilding process, and brings about much greater neural changes than waiting for the changes to happen on their own. Hearing aids can provide enhanced access to as much sound as possible, but they don’t directly teach a person’s brain to interpret the new sounds, nor do hearing aids correct for distortions due to damage to the inner ear. Even with all the advances in hearing aids, they don’t provide a perfect representation of sound.
Auditory Therapy helps with this. It is designed to delay the need for any hearing devices at all, to enhance the benefits you get from your hearing aid devices, and potentially to eliminate or postpone the need for expensive device upgrades.
How do the sessions work:
The therapy generally starts with an initial consultation, where your hearing and your particular situation are evaluated. If the evaluation shows that Auditory Therapy will benefit you, your therapy plan is created. Each session takes approximately 30 minutes, and a therapy program typically involves about 20 sessions.
Types of issues covered in Auditory Therapy:
- Hearing Speech in Noisy Environments
- Fast Talkers
- Multiple or Competing Speakers
- Targeted Listening for Key Words
How expensive is it?
Good news – it can be free! It is fully covered by Medicare and many private insurance carriers will reimburse for Auditory Therapy. Hearing aids are expensive and often out of pocket costs. Although Auditory Therapy isn’t routinely prescribed with hearing aids, it can be remarkably helpful at making aids work more successfully, so that you get greater benefit from your investment. The therapy can also help postpone the need for hearing aids, by helping you maximize the hearing you have. It also helps postpone the need to upgrade to stronger hearing aids, which can be expensive.
How do I sign up?
ABHF, a non-profit devoted to improving hearing health care, is offering open registration for a limited number of participants, but don’t wait. Sign up today. Call or stop by the Downer’s Grove clinic to ensure a spot in the next Auditory Therapy session.
Warren Avenue Clinic
1034 Warren Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515
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