One of the ways I’ve learned to hear better with my severe hearing loss is by working with Geoff Plant, of the Hearing Rehabilitation Foundation, just outside of Boston.
Over the course of a couple of summers, I would drive to Boston from my house in Western Mass. for a two hour session with Geoff. A few years ago I wrote about a four day summer program I did with Geoff at the University of Connecticut.
Geoff is speaking tomorrow night (March 20th) at the New York City Chapter of HLAA. The meeting starts at 5:30 with socializing and refreshments and the formal program starts at 6. The room has a hearing loop, so those with hearing aids and cochlear implants need just to switch to telecoil mode to hear clearly, and we also have CART captioning. The address is 40 East 35th Street, in the downstairs assembly room of the Community Church of New York. The room is fully accessible and no advance registration is needed. For more information, go to our chapter website: hearinglossnyc.org.
Aural rehabilitation, in the broadest sense, teaches you to listen better. It is often used for people getting cochlear implants and sometimes for those getting hearing aids for the first time. It can take many forms, from computer programs to group sessions to individual sessions with an audiologist or speech-language therapist.
One of the techniques Geoff uses is called KTH speech tracking, a program originally developed by Swedish researchers. Another version was designed by a team at Gallaudet University, a Washington, D.C.
Here’s how speech tracking works: In alternating five- and 10-minute sessions, the audiologist reads from a prepared script, stopping at the end of each line whether or not it’s the end of a sentence or even makes sense. The client repeats what has been read. The audiologist’s computer keeps track of how fast the client is responding. This is done with the speaker’s face visible, and with it covered. Not surprisingly, most everyone does better when the speaker’s face is visible. The exercises are designed to enhance the speed and agility of the brain to hear sound and repeat exactly what was read.
If you’re new to hearing aids or a cochlear implant, auditory rehabilitation helps your brain adjust, which ultimately helps you hear better. The result is improved, faster, more accurate word recognition. If auditory rehab isn’t offered in your area, there are lots of ways to create your own version.
The most important thing I learned from my sessions with Geoff was what I call “mindful listening.” Instead of jumping in with “What?” he helped me learn to think first, to consider the context and what might make sense. This sounds time consuming but in fact it becomes an unconscious habit.
If you’re in New York on March 20, please join us at our chapter meeting to hear Geoff speak.
Geoff Plant’s aural rehabilitation technique is just one of many ways you can practice hearing better. In-person rehab, either singly or group, may be available at a nearby medical center or audiological practice.
The website for Cochlear Americas includes an excellent article, “Cochlear Implant Rehabilitation: It’s Not Just for Kids!).
HLAA also offers a guide to listening training programs..
Photo Courtesy of the Hearing Rehabilitation Foundation.
Katherine Bouton is the author of “Living Better With Hearing Loss: A Guide to Health, Happiness, Love, Sex, Work, Friends … and Hearing Aids,” and a memoir, “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You”. Both available on Amazon.com.