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How Hearing Works

Sharpen Your Listening Skills

Auditory training is a term you will probably only hear in an audiology office, or perhaps a school.

But it is important for people with hearing loss to know that they can train their brain to hear and listen. Our brain is always searching for sounds — whether or not we focus on the sounds — and this is called hearing. Attending to and focusing on a sound, causing more parts of the brain to react, is called listening. People who have hearing loss often stop working at listening because it is too difficult and causes fatigue or frustration. Unfortunately, this leads to more communication problems due to the combined effect of hearing loss and diminished listening skills. Though anyone can benefit from the practice of using and strengthening listening skills, it is more important for those who are hard of hearing.

When it comes to hearing loss and hearing aids, most hearing aid users look to the device to make communication better, and though hearing aids can improve hearing, they cannot improve listening. Instead, hearing aid users should strive to be “patients of hearing health care” and look for solutions to improve hearing and listening. This can be accomplished by using any and all devices needed to support hearing as well as therapy and exercises for listening. The highest level of satisfaction with hearing aids comes from following the audiological recommendations in full and accepting that learning to hear and listen again is a process that requires motivation and time. Research in audiology reveals over and over again that hearing care is not a simple thing. The audiology degree is a testament to this fact. For example, an audiology student will spend eight years in college, earn two or more higher education degrees, and perform thousands of clinical hours with patients. Still, many people price check for hearing aids, believing they are making a technology purchase instead of looking at the professional behind the technology and the service that comes with learning to hear and listen.

Author’s note

I’ve been on both sides of the fence, so to speak. I am a hard-of-hearing consumer and user of hearing aids. I grew up with hearing loss in both ears and have used hearing aids in both ears as long as I can remember. I am also a doctor of audiology and the owner of HearWell Center in Forest Hills (independently owned private practice). Educating patients is very important to me, and I invite you to visit our website for more information.