By Kathi Mestayer
Because the brain is an integral component of the hearing process, it sometimes needs help adjusting to new types of sound. The brain needs to fill in some of the blanks when hearing is impaired or when adjusting to a new hearing aid or cochlear implant. “Aural rehabilitation is so much more than speechreading [lipreading],” says Kathleen Cienkowski, Ph.D., an associate professor and the program director of audiology in the University of Connecticut’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department. “It’s basically retraining the brain.” She adds, “Cochlear implants, hearing aids, and listening systems can do wonders, but no assistive device is as smart as your brain. Our brains know what we want— and don’t want—to hear; integrate the other senses; and interpret body language, tone, pacing, and context.” Getting used to new sounds is a big adjustment. That’s when aural or auditory rehabilitation comes in. Cienkowski, who also coordinates the Aural Rehabilitation Interest Group for the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association (ASHA), defines it as “improving the quality of life and communication for those with hearing loss.”
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