You have taken, or are planning to take, a wise first step, the investment in hearing instruments. Hearing aids help you to hear sounds which are interpreted by your brain. This brain stimulation is an important part of hearing health. The following aural rehabilitation exercises will allow you to increase brain stimulation and improve your speech discrimination.
Exercises for Better Listening
1. Read out loud 10 minutes a day
One of the easiest and most effective ways to increase your speech understanding is to read out loud 10 minutes each day. Why? Because reading out loud allows you to simultaneously say, hear and see the words you are reading. This process imprints sounds on the brain faster than simply hearing the same words.
Your audience and source of material can vary, so have fun! Read to yourself, your pet, grandchild or others. Follow a daily reading plan, or choose a magazine article, newspaper, book of poetry or pleasure reading. The important thing is to commit to making this a part of every day.
The effectiveness of reading out loud 10 minutes a day is exemplified by one of my patients. An 87-year-old woman was discouraged by not being able to hear her beloved soap operas on television. Speech discrimination tests showed she was understanding only 68 percent of what she heard. She agreed to read out loud to herself every day for six weeks. When she returned just three weeks later, her speech discrimination score had improved 17 percent. She was delighted at the results, being able to correctly understand 85 percent of the words she heard. Her daughter confirmed her mother was faithfully reading out loud ten minutes each day and wasn’t going to stop!
2. Practice in a noisy environment
After six weeks of reading out loud, you may want to add an additional challenge. Turn your radio or television on at a low volume. Continue to read out loud, focusing on what you say, hear and see. This will simulate conversations in more challenging environments. Continue to practice with this soft background noise for four weeks.
3. Converse in an active listening position, being focused and proactive
At this point you have practiced diligently for 10 weeks. You may have noticed an improvement in your ability to understand speech both in quiet and slightly noisy environments. Now you are ready to practice focused conversations with friends and family. For this aural rehabilitation exercise, you must be in the same room as your conversation partner. Sit facing each other approximately five feet apart. Become aware of sounds that could become a distraction and try to tune those sounds out. Focus on the conversation. If you are having trouble understanding the other person, be proactive. Honestly share what you need from them. For example, let them know it would be helpful for you if they spoke just a bit slower or let you know when they are changing subjects. The important points of this experience are to be in a good listening position, focus on the conversation and be proactive.
I hope you will make these aural rehabilitation exercises a permanent part of your hearing health routine. My passion is to help you hear your best and enjoy conversation with everyone you interact with each day.