New Game Program That Enhances Hearing in Noisy Environments

There are 48 million people in the United States that suffer from some form of hearing loss. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible for them to decipher soft speech in a noisy environment. Researchers from the Harvard Medical School and Harvard University, as well as the Massachusetts Eye and Ear, have programmed a new game that trains mice and humans to translate soft sounds in clamorous backgrounds.

During the experiment, mice and humans were trained on a type of audio-game that involved discerning changes in the loudness of a tone. The tone was presented with an intermediate level of background noise. The researchers documented the electrical activity of neurons in the auditory regions of the cerebral cortex of the test subjects. In mice, numerous neurons became responsive to faint sounds that signal the location of the game’s target. Furthermore, neurons demonstrated increased resistance to noise suppression, but were still able to hear soft sounds even under elevated background turbulence.

Over the course of the training, both species picked up adaptive strategies that allowed them to convert audio cues into litigable information in a more efficient way. Researchers discovered that daily training on the game for 30 minutes heavily reshaped the way the brain encrypts sound.

This data highlights the usefulness that brain training technology and exercises has on hearing loss. This ability to connect with the auditory world is even more effective when combined with cochlear implants and hearing aids.