If you have difficulty keeping up with conversations in noisy rooms, it may be because your brain has trouble processing rapid changes in sound. Researchers from the University of Maryland in College Park in the US have presented a training technique that can help solve this problem and thus improve our hearing.
Speed discrimination training (from English Discrimination training rate) is an exercise in which the brain distinguishes between the speeds of sound propagation. This technology has the potential to improve the hearing of millions of elderly people, according to research by scientists from the University of Maryland in College Park in the US. However, experts stress that our ability to “check” sounds tends to deteriorate with age. An article on this was published in the Journal of the Society for Research in Otolaryngology.
Noting subtle changes in sounds depends on the brain’s ability to process audio inputs over time, known as auditory temporal processing, according to the researchers. It not only affects the understanding of speech, it helps us understand which sound reaches our ears.
“We’ve seen some evidence that temporal processing deficits can be corrected in animal models, but this is the first time we’ve shown this in humans,” said neurobiologist Samira Anderson of the University of Maryland in College Park.
The study included 40 volunteers who underwent rapid discrimination training. It consisted of nine sessions of 45-60 minutes each, during which participants were asked to distinguish between sets of tones played in a quick sequence.
During training, these individuals had to note changes in frequency—determining which tones in the string were higher or lower in pitch. Similar tests were performed before and after training to assess each participant’s ability to pick up on changes in the sound they heard.
Compared to a control group of 37 participants whose sessions included a simpler tone-detection exercise, those who received training in rhythm discrimination showed an improvement in the ability to recognize changes in pitch and speed of voice. This was found in both young and elderly participants, including older adults with some degree of hearing loss.
This study demonstrates that appropriate training can partially restore the sound processing ability of older listeners.
Main image source: Adobe Stock
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