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Computer Games to Combat Hearing Loss in Children

by Shelley D. Hutchins
teacher and student working on a tablet

In an effort to provide audiologists with tools to remain competitive in the age of personal sound amplification products and over-the-counter hearing aids, Nancy Tye-Murray—otolaryngology, audiology, and communication sciences and disorders professor—looked for a way to help audiologists customize hearing health care. She worked with her colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis to create an auditory training game program for adults with hearing loss.

The Customized Learning: Exercises in Aural Rehabilitation (clEAR) allows users to select various options and then generates game-like listening drills based on those choices. According to a recent article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the software exercises the cognitive skills — such as word memory, focus and speed — that are important for understanding speech.”

Based on the success of clEAR for adults, Tye-Murray’s team received funding to develop similar games to help children with hearing loss build speech-processing skills. Kathleen Williams—an SLP who oversees services for students with hearing loss in north St. Louis County—helps test the prototype programs for children. Williams stated in the article that these fun exercises motivate students to practice more often. And they even want to play the games at home.

Both the original version of clEAR, along with the current study on adapting the program for children, focus on the involvement of an audiologist to help set up exercises to meet the user’s specific needs. Audiologists provide four key elements of customization for this—or any—auditory training program, according to Tye-Murray. She detailed those elements—such as understanding and addressing a patient’s hearing predicament—in an article she wrote for the December 2016 issue of The Leader: “Better Hearing? Game On!”

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