Here at Neurotone we talk a lot about Listening and Communication Enhancement (LACE), the aural rehabilitation program that retrains your brain to listen. Created by audiologists to help new hearing aid users make sense of all the sounds theyâ€™re hearing for the first time in years, LACE also works for veteran hearing aid users as well asÂ for those who are just tired of missing out on conversations.
Whichever category describes you, LACE training helps you develop strategies and skills for listening so that you can get the most out of the sounds you doÂ hear.
How It Works
LACE training consists of 20 sessions, each lasting 30 minutes and including multiple exercises covering five areas (listed below). The program is interactive, so it responds to your performance. When you do well, it ratchets up the challenge so you can hone your listening skills even further. When youâ€™re struggling, it eases up so you can experience victories and make solid and sustainable progress. There are five types of exercises:
Speech in Noise â€” In these exercises, you are tasked with listening to a person speak over background noise that gets progressively louder and more distracting.
Competing Speaker â€” Competing Speaker exercises feature two people speaking at once. You are instructed to listen to only one of them; after each sentence, the program checks for comprehension.
Rapid Speech â€” Just what it sounds like. A very fast talker speaks and you are asked how much of the sentence you understood.
Missing Word â€” This exercise helps the brain learn to fill in words that are blotted out by sudden noises (such as a honking car) by using contextual cues.
Target Word â€” This challenging exercise really helps you practice focusing on a speaker, as it asks you to identify the words before or after â€œtarget wordsâ€Â have been uttered.
â€˜Clinically Significant Improvementsâ€™
How do we know LACE works? Scientists tested it. In 2006, audiologists Robert Sweetow and Jennifer Sabes, creators of LACE, entered the lab with 65 subjects. The subjectsâ€™ average age was 63, and most wore hearing aids.
Sweetow and Sabes tested the subjects on all five LACE categories four times: before LACE training (baseline), two weeks into training, at the end of the four-week training program and then four weeks after completing the LACE program. Between the baseline testing and the final testing, 87% of subjects showed improvement on Speech in Noise, 88% showed improvement on Rapid Speech comprehension, 84% showed improvement on Competing Speaker, 80% improved on the Target Word test and 75% improved on the Missing Word category. So they retained those improvements a month after finishing the testing.
Even more impressive, when tested on a new category that the LACE training did not includeâ€”Quick Speech in Noiseâ€”85% of subjects showed improvement, and 46% showed â€œclinically significant improvement,â€ suggesting that people can apply skills learned during LACE training to new situations (a term called â€œgeneralizationâ€). In other words, the subjects hadnâ€™t just gotten really good at answering LACE-type questions, but could take what they’d learned and apply it.
Similarly, inÂ two other types of test that are different from the LACE testing modelsâ€”the Stroop Color Word Test and the Listening Span Testâ€”those who had received LACE training showed â€œstatistically significant improvementsâ€ (76% and 79% respectively), whereas a control group that did notÂ receive LACE training showed no improvement. Again, that suggests that those who had taken LACE training were applying what they’d learned to newÂ situations. You can read the study results.
So do the improvements from LACE training last? Studies sayÂ they do.
In 2011 the journal Cerebral Cortex published an independent study showing that test subjects who had received LACE training â€œexhibited significant improvements in speech-in-noise perception that were retained 6 months later.â€Â Wrote the authors: â€œWe provide the first demonstration that short- term training can improve the neural representation of cues important for speech-in-noise perception.â€
Since understanding conversation in the presence of background noise is a majorÂ challenge to people with degraded hearing (even if they wearÂ hearing aids), we consider that real validation. You can read about it on Neurotone and find a link to the original study.
So yes, LACE training works. It takes commitment, though: Five days a week, 30 minutes a day, for a month. Are you up for the challenge? Sign up for LACE training andÂ find out! We bet you are.
Happy Better Hearing Month!