Improvements in digital amplification, cochlear implants, and other innovations have extended the potential for improving hearing function; yet, there remains a need for further hearing improvement in challenging listening situations, such as when trying to understand speech in noise or when listening to music. Here, we review evidence from animal and human models of plasticity in the brain’s ability to process speech and other meaningful stimuli. We considered studies targeting populations of younger through older adults, emphasizing studies that have employed randomized controlled designs and have made connections between neural and behavioral changes. Overall results indicate that the brain remains malleable through older adulthood, provided that treatment algorithms have been modified to allow for changes in learning with age. Improvements in speech-in-noise perception and cognition function accompany neural changes in auditory processing. The training-related improvements noted across studies support the need to consider auditory training strategies in the management of individuals who express concerns about hearing in difficult listening situations. Given evidence from studies engaging the brain’s reward centers, future research should consider how these centers can be naturally activated during training.
|Journal||SIG 6 Perspectives on Hearing and Hearing Disorders: Research and Diagnostics|
|State||Published - May 2013|