Why is Aural Rehabilitation Necessary?
On a daily basis I get the pleasure of improving people’s hearing so life can be more enjoyable. What’s important for one individual will be different from the next which keeps my days new and interesting. I can work with one person whose top priority is to hear better in a weekly meeting, while another’s may be hearing the birds during their daily walks. I never grow tired of finding out what truly will benefit someone’s quality of life. In my practice my typical form of treatment for a patient is the use of hearing aids and although the goal of each individual will vary, one thing that remains constant is the need for aural rehabilitation procedures in addition the hearing aid itself.
Aural rehabilitation is a combination of different pieces including the identification and diagnosis of a hearing loss and the implementation of an amplification device(s) to aid in the patient’s hearing abilities. The third piece is the different therapies/strategies that can be provided to patients, which is the focus of this discussion. Many individuals feel once they receive a hearing aid, there hearing should be back to the way it once was, and this simply is not the case. The hearing aids acts as just that, an aid to help one improve one’s hearing. When an individual is fit with hearing aids, they are moving from what they know as a quiet world to a noisy world, which can be challenging. Through the proper counseling and practice, the patient has the capability of adjusting to these new sounds.
Types of aural rehabilitation can include communication strategies as well as computer based programs. Strategies can be implemented by the patient to enhance communication and these will include but are not limited to: reducing the distance between you and the speaker, being aware of the topic of conversation, and avoiding carrying on conversations from another room. In your own home you can also strategize for optimum communication scenarios by the arrangement of the furniture to promote face-to-face interaction, making sure there is good lighting to enhance visual cues, and possibly adding carpet to a certain area(s) to help absorb noise in the room.
There are some who feel that once an individual is wearing hearing aids their hearing should be restored to the way it once was, however, this is not a realistic expectation. For this reason there are strategies that a communication partner such as friends or family can use to help facilitate better communication such as, gaining their attention, maintaining eye contact, rephrasing rather than repeating, and conversing away from the background noise. The use of these strategies will not ensure the patient hears 100% perfectly, but will help enhance the conversation in addition the benefits of the technology.
Other forms of aural rehabilitation include the use of computer based training programs. Auditory training programs work to help retrain the brain to comprehend speech better in difficult listening situations. The Listening and Communication Enhancement program, also known as LACE, is one of these programs and can provide some individual’s with a 40% improvement in challenging environments.
Aural rehabilitation is a beneficial component to hearing aid use. While it is important to select the appropriate hearing aid technology for each patient, to truly get the most benefit from the device aural rehab strategies should be implemented. For many individuals the main goal is to understand speech better, and with the implementation of aural rehab we can directly target this goal for our patient’s. Some rehab strategies will be the role of the patient while others can from friends or family members. Regardless of the type or degree of hearing loss an individual may have, aural rehabilitation should be a consideration when planning the course of treatment. If you or a loved suspect your hearing may be declining, please schedule an appointment with your audiologist to begin the evaluation process