A puzzle video game to improve hearing

Study

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Innovative research carried out at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts (USA) has shown that a new video game may help older people with hearing loss improve their ability to follow speech in noisy environments.

The Verge reports on one of the new studies using video games as digital medicine and emphasizes that getting patients to win a specific virtual game has yet to show clear real-world results. In their study, the US researchers asked participants to play the game by completing a puzzle and listening for clues as background noise became louder over time.

The researchers worked on the principle that a well-designed, engaging game could help to retrain the brain in filtering out unwanted noise, much like musicians do. They enrolled 24 people with hearing loss, all around 70 years of age. After two months of playing, elderly participants with hearing loss were found to hear 25% more words spoken in noisy conditions than they could before.

“We probably didn’t nail it the first time,” says Daniel Polley, senior study contributor, highlighting that this is a first step. “The study was also small, so it’s possible that this video game might have very different effects on people of different ages, musical backgrounds, video game expertise, or degrees of hearing loss.” The study results were published recently in the journal Current Biology.

Source: The Verge; Whitton JP, Audiomotor Perceptual Training Enhances Speech Intelligibility in Background Noise. Current Biology. 2017 Oct 16.

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