Hearing Blog
Man playing computer video games and how it can help your hearing

How computer games can help your hearing

Published 12-07-2019
Last Updated 18-07-2019

Deciphering speech and sound sources in a loud environment is not always a simple task. Fortunately, video and audio games can help make the sound detection process easier.

From Pong to pre-ordering, Video Games are here to stay

The first video game, Pong, came out in 1972. Since then, video games have become ubiquitous in contemporary society. It is staggering to look at how far video gaming has come. As of 2010, research shows that 93% of U.S. households have access to a computer and 87% have access to a game console.

Get in the Audiogame Hall of Fame

For the most part, "brain training," "brain games," and "sensory foraging audiogames" - all mean the same thing. They refer to a type of video game that helps to train the brain to hear better. Training the brain is a good thing; it means having one more tool in your arsenal. If you are hard-of-hearing, having one more tool in Batman belt makes life easier. Let’s explore how studies have confirmed that computer games can help your hearing.

How Computer Games Can Help Your Hearing

Just like puzzles help individuals retain cognitive functioning in older individuals, brain games can actually train your ear to hear smarter.  Computer and video games help your hearing in a variety of ways. Video games help to:
  1. Increase working memory, allowing you to handle more noisy environments - while training your mind to handle higher cognitive loads
  2. Retain cognitive functioning
  3. Battle the cocktail party effect - allowing you to focus more on the speaker, and less on the background noise at the party 
  4. They train your neurons to process more information

Video games overwhelm you in a good way

Newbies may be overwhelmed the first time they pick up a mouse or a controller. But that’s all part of growing up. It has been well documented that video games put a cognitive demand on the individual. 

 “The player must not only interpret, but also mentally transform, manipulate, and relate dynamic and changing images.” -Source

Increasing Working Memory, Cognitive Load and Information Processing

With practice, everything gets better. A meta-analytic investigation (of 118 journal articles) showed that video game play in information processing aided. Results suggest that people with extensive experience playing video games display benefits that extend beyond visual modality - and also impact multisensory processing. This study was done by perception researchers at the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University. 

Growth requires pain. Overcoming challenges makes us stronger. “When combined with conventional assistive devices such as hearing aids or cochlear implants, audiogames [...] provide the hearing impaired with an improved ability to reconnect to the auditory world.” says audiologist Daniel B. Polley, Ph.D.

Countering the Cocktail Party Effect

The ability to hear soft speech in a noisy environment is difficult for many and nearly impossible for the 48 million in the U.S. living with hearing loss. According to a 2014 study conducted by Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard University, computer games can help people better identify sound sources in noisy settings - a phenomenon known as the cocktail party effect. Both mice and human subjects showed noticeable hearing improvements after playing the audiogame. 

Improvements in the processing of speech in high levels of background noise were not observed for control subjects, who heard the sounds of the game but did not actually play the game. This supports the conclusion that hearing games help the practitioner separate signal from noise. In addition, brain training substantially altered the way the brain encoded sound. 

The hunt for more xp. Questing for more information

The modern-day human being does not forage for food, but information. We are informavores; and when it becomes hard for us to communicate and absorb the information around us - then life becomes more challenging (and not in a fun video game sort of way).

For instance: Individuals in this study were able to correctly identify 25% more words in spoken sentences or digit sequences presented in high levels of background noise. However, benefits did not persist in the absence of continued practice. 

In order to be better at facing the cocktail party effect, you had to put your ears to work. That is, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” You have to keep practicing your hearing to keep it fresh, or else it atrophies on you. 

So if you are serious about regaining your 20/20 hearing you have to use every tool at your disposal. Tools at your disposal if you are hard-of-hearing in a digital world:
  1. brain games
  2. hearing aids
  3. interpreters
  4. closed-captioning on T.Vs. 

You CAN Teach Your Brain New Tricks

Where can you play these audio video games? We don’t recommend finding brain challenge games on an app store; if you read the fine print, you will find that a majority of these applications do not promise medical benefits. 

The best thing you can do is to go to an audiologist - especially if you have a hearing loss. See what types of brain games your audiologist recommends, and verify if you are a candidate for hearing aids. Use the tools at your disposal to become a part of the conversation!