Auditory training is a process that involves teaching the brain to listen. People without hearing impairments and auditory processing disorders learn how to listen naturally at a very young age and may not remember this process. During this type of training, people are provided with auditory stimuli and coaching that helps them learn to identify and distinguish sounds. Auditory training is usually supervised by an audiologist or speech-language pathologist.
People who are hard of hearing may choose to wear hearing aids or Cochlear implants to improve their hearing. These devices may be worn full time or part of the time, depending on the preference of the patient, and the patient can opt to continue using sign language and other communication techniques in addition to speaking. However, just inserting an implant or hearing aid is not enough. The device needs to be adjusted so that the patient can hear comfortably and the patient must learn how to interpret the sounds that enter the ear. This requires auditory training, with patients listening to music, spoken words, and other auditory stimuli.
When these devices are initially installed, it can be overwhelming. A flood of noise enters the ear and the brain has difficulty interpreting it. Over time, auditory training allows the patient to discriminate between different sounds and to attach meaning to sounds. For example, horns evolve from loud and obnoxious noises to warning signals that alert people to dangers. Without training, devices like hearing aids are not very useful for the patient.
People with auditory processing disorders can also benefit from auditory training. In an auditory processing disorder, hearing is functionally fine, but the brain has difficulty making sense of the information. A speech-language pathologist works with the patient to help him or her identify sounds, distinguish between them, and develop listening skills. Training of this nature can also be provided to people recovering from strokes and other injuries that impede auditory processing or damage the hearing.
Some people have suggested that auditory training can also be useful for patients with autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. While not formally endorsed by professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, this treatment can be one option to consider. This type of training can help patients who are sensitized to auditory stimuli deal with the world around them and it may also improve communication skills and help patients feel more comfortable in noisy environments. It is important to note that treatments like auditory training are not cures, but rather approaches to management that can help people cope with their environment.