Q: What Is Aural Rehabilitation, and How Does It Help?
A: Different definitions have developed over the years, but aural rehabilitation at its core is a selection or combination of counseling, communication retraining, and one-on-one or support-group activities to help people effectively adjust to and manage their hearing loss — especially in conjunction with hearing devices — for a better quality of life.
Most hearing loss can be successfully managed with the help of today’s sophisticated hearing aids. Hearing technology alone, however, can’t address the communication challenges that can result from the deprivation of sound over time. For example:
- Decreased auditory-processing ability
- Reduced participation in activities
- Stress, fatigue, and difficulty focusing
- Diminished ability or stamina in relation to listening
Aural rehabilitation essentially helps people integrate or reintegrate into a world filled with sound, assisting them in developing skills to hear their best and more confidently navigate various listening situations.
Strategies for aural rehabilitation — also called “audiologic rehabilitation,” “auditory rehabilitation,” “hearing rehabilitation,” or “rehabilitative audiology,” per the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association — can differ between adults and children, so let’s discuss each group separately:
Adult Aural Rehabilitation
Adult rehabilitation may be offered in individual or group settings and generally encompasses these main points:
- Adjusting to and learning about one’s own specific hearing loss
- Learning to use, care for, and make the most of hearing devices
- Improving communication skills for greater engagement and participation
- Exploring hearing-aid accessories for increased convenience and empowerment
Just as hearing loss and its impacts can vary from person to person, aural rehabilitation looks different for everyone. To discover what’s right for you, it’s important to talk with a licensed hearing care professional.
Youth Aural Rehabilitation
Kids can benefit from rehabilitation if hearing loss occurred later in childhood. If they were born with it or acquired the impairment fairly early, they instead need habilitation. Children with hearing loss from an early age face significant communication challenges and delays, and they require specific habilitative interventions to catch up to their normal-hearing peers.
The specific habilitation or rehabilitation process depends on the:
- Type of hearing loss
- Degree of hearing impairment
- Child’s age at which the hearing loss occurred, was diagnosed, and was treated
Effective approaches may include teaching:
- Visual cues to help the child interpret facial expressions, gestures, and situational context for better communication
- Speech improvement to help young patients learn to pronounce and enunciate correctly with more normal voice quality, rate of speech, loudness, and rhythm
- Hearing aid use to help kids adapt to and — at age-appropriate levels — maintain their devices and eventually evolve to be the main point of contact with their audiologist