Does LACE Work? Scientists Say Yes.

Public domain image

Public domain image

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 they’re hearing for the first time in years, LACE also works for veteran hearing aid users as well as 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 do 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 you’re struggling, it eases up so you can experience victories and make solid and sustainable progress. There are five types of exercises:

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Listen Up! There’s Hope for the Hard-of-Hearing.


Listening is a skill you can master, even if you don’t have this guy’s natural advantages.

The statistics on hearing loss in America are pretty grim. It’s the #3 health issue for older adults, after arthritis and heart disease. It can lead to depression and mental decline, and it has major implications for quality of life.

Fortunately, humans are rational creatures who do sensible things to improve their circumstances, right?

Not so fast. Only 20% of people with hearing loss who could benefit from a hearing aid actually wear one. And typically, those folks have waited 7 to 10 years after their initial diagnosis to get fitted with hearing aids.

What the heck is going on?

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Five Good News Stories for Your Ears


Cheerleaders at UW-Madison, 1948/Creative Commons

June 25, 2015—Did you miss the cheers going up from the hearing impaired section of the globe? Some good news has come to light for people with hearing loss in the last six months. In case you missed it, here are five things to be happy about if you or someone you love suffers from degraded hearing.

1. The Hearing Aid Tax Credit. Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in April and in the Senate in January, this law would grant a tax credit of $500 per ear for hearing aids every five years. For most people that would work out to $1000 (since most folks need aids in both ears) every five years—a far sight better than the $0 that Medicare and most insurers provide for hearing aids. Visit for info and to write your Congressperson.

2. The Medicare Audiology Services Enhancement Act. Introduced earlier this month by Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakis, this law would allow Medicare patients access to audiology services beyond the diagnostic tests currently covered. That means coverage for auditory treatment and auditory rehabilitation services, vestibular (balance and dizziness) treatment and other advanced procedures. It’s one step closer to hearing loss being treated like any other health issue.

3. The “Hearing Aid Effect” is waning. Remember that research from 1977 showing that people assign negative attributes to individuals wearing hearing aids? Well, new research published in November shows that that particular stigma is blessedly on the decline as hearing aids become more aesthetically pleasing and devices like earbuds become more common. In fact, in some cases those with hearing aids are viewed more favorably than others; in a study by Catherine Palmer and Erik Rauterkus, subjects rated individuals wearing a standard-sized behind-the-ear hearing aid as “significantly more trustworthy” than those sporting Bluetooth communications devices.

4. A new drug for tinnitus and epilepsy? Maybe so. Neurophysiologists at the University of Connecticut have found a drug that may treat epilepsy while preventing tinnitus, both of which are caused when overactive cells send too many signals into the brain and the body cannot send out enough potassium to snuff them out. The new drug is closely related to an approved epilepsy drug called retigabine, but it acts more selectively on the body’s potassium channels, thereby avoiding retigabine’s rather rough side effects (which can include the skin and eyes turning blue). Hearing Review reports that FDA trials are in the works.

5. Technology. The startup boom may be a bubble, but it has some definite upsides. One is that a plethora of technological solutions to hearing loss have hit the market in the last year or two. A device that translates speech into text for the hard-of-hearing and a hearing aid that reads lips may seem like gadgets from the future, but in many cases they are already here. —Traci Hukill




Study: Hearing Loss Affects Partners, Too

senior-couple-public-domainIf you haven’t experienced it yourself, maybe you’ve observed it in parents or friends: the strain one person’s hearing loss can put on his or her primary relationship. A new overview of the scientific literature, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Audiology and summarized in Hearing Review, suggests that, indeed, hearing loss in older adults affects their “communication partners” (family members, spouses or significant others) negatively. “What emerges is evidence of restricted social life, burdens in communication, and reduced Quality of Life and relationship satisfaction,” reports Hearing Review.

The link between a person’s hearing loss and social isolation is well documented; a landmark 1999 study found that just 32 percent of survey respondents with untreated “more severe hearing loss” participated regularly in social activities.

But what about the spouses, significant others or primary caregivers of these folks? Rebecca Kamil and Frank Lin, MD, PhD, looked at 24 studies dealing with hearing loss in subjects over 50 years old containing specific data relating to the communication partners. Sixteen of the 24 studies found that hearing loss in one partner led to reduced quality of life for the other. Seven of the studies pointed to communication barriers leading to stress and lower satisfaction with the relationship, while four studies suggested that the communication partner—not just the hearing-impaired person—experienced decreased social interaction as a result of the partner’s hearing loss.

Whither thou goest.

It’s not too difficult to imagine how it happens. First come the minor compromises: no more dinners with friends in noisy restaurants. Then disagreements over the TV volume and frustration when phone calls must be shouted. Huffington Post writer Ann Brenoff describes the dynamic brilliantly in this 2012 article, from the sorrow of missing an old routine (“Do I miss his droll commentary whenever Anderson Cooper does a segment on ’60 Minutes?’ You bet I do”) to the loss of social independence at parties (“he stays close by my side, knowing that I’ll repeat key words of the conversation to enable him to join in. Has this put a crimp in our social life? Absolutely.”).

In between, one can imagine a daily barrage of minor irritations and inconveniences, a tendency to start saying “Never mind” rather than repeat a throwaway comment for the third time, pain felt on behalf of the partner with the hearing loss and the decision that it’s just easier to stay at home than try to negotiate social situations together.

“Hearing loss doesn’t just impact the person whose hearing is diminished,” Brenoff writes. “Everyone who loves them and lives with them suffers. How has my husband’s affliction affected our family? For one, I’m tired of being accused of mumbling, of watching my husband become frustrated when the kids make noise in the backseat and he can’t hear me giving directions when I’m sitting next to him in the car. The kids have slipped into the role of being their Dad’s ‘ears,’ knowing that he won’t understand them the first time; I hear their voices rise when they have to repeat things a third or fourth time and am grateful that there is no accompanying eye rolling or taking advantage of the fact that when he agrees to something, he might not actually have heard the request. “

There is a silver lining. Several of the 24 studies that Kamil and Lin analyzed looked at how treatment of hearing loss—whether through aural rehabilitation, hearing aids or cochlear implants—affected the communication partner. The news is good. “Overall,” the authors write, “these interventions were associated with improvements in [quality of life], relationship satisfaction, communication and social functioning for the CP.”

In other words, if taking action to treat hearing loss can bring back those wiseacre remarks about well-coiffed news anchors, ordinary breakfast table conversations and outings with the church group or friends, the partners of the hearing-impaired would be most grateful. —Traci Hukill