Exercise your ears: Apps and games to keep hearing sharp
Editor's note: This article was originally posted on January 27, 2014. Due to its popularity, we've updated it to republish today.
Hearing loss is no joke, but there’s no reason keeping your hearing healthy can’t be fun. And while you don’t have to buy a gym membership to exercise your ears, it is important to incorporate activities that keep your sense of hearing at its best. To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite apps, online programs and daily activities for those who already wear hearing devices as well as for those who don’t.
Advanced Bionics offers a variety of apps for both iPhone and Android users designed to help children and adults with hearing loss.
Apps for adults
AB CLIX (iPad only)
If you wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, you probably already know how difficult it can be sometimes to distinguish between vowels and consonants — especially when you’re in a crowded restaurant or other social situation. The CLIX app reduces your frustration in this area of listening with drills for word differences you can practice in both quiet and noisy environments. Useful features include:
- A placement test to establish recommended levels
- Scoring and progress charting
- Choice of practice session lengths
Apps for children
AB Listening Adventures (iPad only)
Caregivers and therapists will appreciate this app for children with hearing loss ages 4 to 10. The program is designed to guide development of listening and language skills using six different story-based games which focus on listening for multiple elements, plurals, pronouns or minimal pairs.
VocAB Scenes (iPad only)
Children with hearing loss ages 4 to 10 will enjoy learning vocabulary with this app’s fun scenes, featuring outside water fun, beach play, pet store, swimming pool, camping and winter fun. Caregivers or therapist guide the child in listening exercises using three different games for each scene to promote listening and language development.
Listening and communication
LACE Auditory Training programs
Children and adults can practice listening and communication skills on their personal computer, iPad or Android device with LACE, a daily training program designed to help develop strategies for communicating in difficult hearing situations. Each online training session lasts approximately 20 minutes.
Forbrain® uses the power of voice to improve attention span, concentration, memory, elocution and pronunciation. Users (both children and adults) wear Forbrain’s unique bone-conduction headphone with a dynamic filter microphone while speaking out loud or to another person. The creators recommend using the program a few minutes each day for at least six weeks.
Since studies link hearing loss to mental conditions such as anxiety and depression, it’s in your best interest to give your brain a good workout. Why not improve your hearing and play games at the same time?
Use games and challenges to stimulate cognitive functions with HAPPYneuron. The brain training program, scientifically developed by a neurologist, is customized to your natural ability with games designed to help you remember more, concentrate better, react quicker, think sharper and increase confidence. To give your brain and ears a workout, play the games specifically focused on sound. A subscription required; however, there is a seven-day free trial.
Try this as a free app on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch or sign up for a membership and play games online. Either way, you’ll enjoy challenging your brain with daily workouts specifically adapted to your cognitive level with games developed by a team of scientists experienced in neuropsychological research.
While online brain games are fun, you can also do some daily hearing exercises at home. The following activities are best when practiced with a partner.
- Practice having conversations in noisy situations by simulating those environments at home. You can do this easily by turning on the radio or television to a normal volume, then have a conversation with others in the same room. Focus on the conversation while tuning out all other sound.
- Close your eyes and ask your partner to quietly move to different parts of the room and make noise. Can you identify the direction of the sound? How about the distance?
No partner? No problem! Here are a few solo activities to do at your convenience:
- Meditate. Because so much of sound recognition occurs in the brain, finding ways to improve concentration is beneficial for your hearing. Many different types of meditation exist, but perhaps the easiest way to begin is to sit quietly in a comfortable position, relax with your eyes closed and breathe deeply, focusing on the sound of your breath. Like any new activity, meditation takes practice. Begin with a few minutes every morning and increase by one or two minutes as you become comfortable.
- Sound isolation. This active listening exercise helps your brain practice recognizing sounds. Find a comfortable place to sit and close your eyes. Identify as many of the sounds in your environment as you can, then isolate each one and focus your attention on it for a few seconds.
If you’re already a yogi, you understand the health benefits yoga provides. Did you know it can help with your hearing, too? Yoga poses, such as tree pose, lotus pose, cobra pose and triangle pose, increase circulation in your ear and brain.
Good circulation is important for healthy nerve functions and also removes waste and toxins. If you’re not interested in practicing yoga in a studio, look into the many free videos available on YouTube. If your doctor agrees you’re healthy enough, chances are good yoga will help you feel better as well as hear better, too.
No matter how you choose to exercise this year, we want to partner with you to make hearing health a priority. Search our website for articles on hearing health, use our Find a Professional section to locate a trusted hearing center near you, or engage with us online. We believe better hearing is a personal journey — and we're with you every step of the way.