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Patients with hearing loss benefit from training with loved one’s voice

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Hearing loss often is called the invisible disability, according to Washington University researcher Nancy Tye-Murray. It can masquerade as other problems, from dementia to depression, and it can make those problems worse. With an aging population, the detrimental effects of hearing loss will only grow.

To help people with hearing loss navigate their daily lives, Tye-Murray and her colleagues at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed software tools to improve speech recognition and to provide ongoing contact with an audiologist. The program is called “customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation,” or clEAR. Working with Washington University’s Office of Technology Management, Tye-Murray and the program’s co-founder, Brent Spehar, a research scientist at the School of Medicine, launched a St. Louis-based startup company in 2016 to provide the software to patients and hearing health-care professionals.

“Hearing loss destroys self-identity,” said Tye-Murray, a professor of otolaryngology and of audiology and communication sciences. “The inability to hear and participate in everyday conversations is isolating and can destroy relationships with family, friends and co-workers. In my lab, we have been developing computer software to help adults and children with hearing loss practice listening, helping train the ear to better understand the people who are most important in their lives.”

In the U.S., more than 35 million adults report some amount of hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And more than a quarter of those over age 65 have what is considered disabling hearing loss, meaning they would benefit from hearing aids.

Originally published by the School of Medicine

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