Better Hearing? Game On! An auditory training game program can help you customize care for your patients. All Ears on Audiology
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All Ears on Audiology  |   December 01, 2016
Better Hearing? Game On!
Author Notes
  • Nancy Tye-Murray, PhD, is the founder and president of clEAR and a professor in the department of otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. murrayn@ent.wustl.edu
    Nancy Tye-Murray, PhD, is the founder and president of clEAR and a professor in the department of otolaryngology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. murrayn@ent.wustl.edu×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / All Ears on Audiology
All Ears on Audiology   |   December 01, 2016
Better Hearing? Game On!
The ASHA Leader, December 2016, Vol. 21, 18-19. doi:10.1044/leader.AEA.21122016.18
The ASHA Leader, December 2016, Vol. 21, 18-19. doi:10.1044/leader.AEA.21122016.18
As “big box” stores offer automated hearing tests and inexpensive hearing aids, we audiologists are seeking new ways to distinguish ourselves from the competition. The traditional incentives for attracting patients—we have post-graduate degrees; we are experts in testing hearing; we can best fit hearing aids—are often not as compelling as they once were to discerning patients who want to maximize value and minimize the dollars spent on hearing health care.
Customized hearing health care—services tailored to meet the particular needs of the patient—is the key to remaining competitive in this rapidly changing environment. And one means of customization is an auditory training game program such as Customized Learning: Exercises in Aural Rehabilitation (clEAR). This program provides computerized games that are fun to play (for example, a “slot machine” game and a “concentration card” game) and, like other auditory training programs such as eARena and LACE, can be accessed via the web.

Customized hearing health care—services tailored to meet the particular needs of the patient—is the key to remaining competitive in this rapidly changing environment. And one means of customization is an auditory training game program.

clEAR is only one of many options for providing customized hearing health care and can be used in conjunction with other options, such as group classes (for example, Active Communication Education Program), speech-reading training (such as ReadmyQuips), and listening-problems assessment (for example, COSI), to optimize hearing health care. But what makes clEAR’s type of product unique in customizing hearing health care is that patients’ training incorporates the speech of someone they know, supporting successful everyday conversations. (Read more about the development of the program.)
clEAR has a proprietary recording and editing system that lets the patient’s frequent communication partner (such as a spouse, grown child or grandchild) record the training items using the microphone of a computer. For example, on the day a patient receives a new hearing aid, the patient’s spouse can record the auditory training stimuli in another room at the clinic. The training stimuli include frequently used words, bound morpheme distinctions and connected speech.
From there, audiologists can remotely monitor patients’ game performance to help them integrate their new hearing technology into their lives.

On the day a patient receives a new hearing aid, the patient’s spouse can record the auditory training stimuli in another room at the clinic. The training stimuli include frequently used words, bound morpheme distinctions and connected speech.

Elements of customization
In providing the four key elements of customized hearing health care through auditory training game programs like clEAR, audiologists:
  1. Understand and address the patient’s hearing predicament, which entails not only performing hearing tests and providing hearing aids, but also addressing those communication situations in which a patient wants to experience more success. For example, if a patient wants to better hear a spouse’s conversation, then the patient should receive auditory training that presents speech samples spoken by the spouse.

  2. Include the patient’s frequent communication partner(s) in the hearing treatment plan, which means giving the spouse or family member a meaningful role to play. When a family member or other frequent communication partner is involved in a patient’s hearing health care plan, the patient is more likely to comply and more likely to benefit. Yet frequent communication partners are seldom given a role to play, and many a spouse or grown child has spent time in an audiologist’s waiting room reading popular magazines when they could have been taking part in the plan.

    When a family member or other frequent communication partner is involved in a patient’s hearing health care plan, the patient is more likely to comply and more likely to benefit.

  3. Create a sense of community with others who share similar hearing-related challenges by creating a means for patients to interact with one another. Hearing loss can be an isolating experience and often diminishes one’s self-identity, self-worth and emotional well-being. One of the most effective ways to counteract these negative consequences is for audiologists to create a sense of community among their caseload, where patients can connect and receive mutual support.

  4. Become a fellow traveler in the patient’s journey, which means that the audiologist becomes a part of the patient’s ongoing journey of navigating and remedying hearing loss challenges, beyond diagnosing the hearing loss and fitting hearing aids. The audiologist is a monthly, biweekly or even weekly presence in the patient’s life.

A customized solution
Providing customized hearing health care through a program like clEAR can be feasible and cost-effective, even in the busiest of audiology practices.
Patients purchase a three-month minimum subscription with programs like clEAR, or they make a one-time purchase with other products like LACE. Depending on the brand and product type, auditory training programs often cost $39–$150.
With clEAR, patients are encouraged to visit their audiologist at the beginning of training for help in recording the speech of their frequent communication partner and for a short orientation session. At the audiologist’s discretion, the patient may also receive pre- and post-training diagnostics.
The patient then receives training with the partner’s voice, which allows quick acclimation to new hearing aids (or offers an alternative treatment for those who are not ready to purchase hearing aids) and also fosters better recognition of the speech of the person most important in their daily life. Audiologists stay in contact with their patients through an automated email system incorporated into the clEAR website, providing feedback about training performance.
In addition to receiving customized emails from the clinician, the patient is also enrolled in that clinician’s clEAR Community, becomes part of the audiologist’s online bulletin board and contributes “clEAR coins” earned during training to the communal “Treasure Chest.” clEAR is offered only through audiologists; if patients come directly to the clEAR website, they are referred to a local practitioner.
Although the world of hearing treatment is changing, customized hearing health care promises a bright future.
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December 2016
Volume 21, Issue 12