Q: My audiologist has given me daily listening practice to do at home with a practice partner, but I live alone and have no-one to practice with consistently. Are there other ways I can improve my hearing skills?

A: This is a common challenge for many people with implants and even people with hearing aids. One gentleman who lived in a remote community literally had no-one within 100kms of his home. He trained himself to listen with his cochlear implant by watching a ten minute clip from a DVD with subtitles over and over. The clip he chose had dialogue with little or no sound effects or background music. Then when he felt he knew the text fairly well, he would watch it again without the sub-titles. He would often watch the same clip 20-30 times.

Another way is to listen to “Talking Books”, where the text is read aloud. It helps to have the written text available. Also, the speed of the verbal text may be a bit fast. There is a company called People Learn Production (formerly called Narkaling Inc.) who produce audio books for people learning English as a second language (see www.peoplelearn.com. au). These start off at 40 words per minute right up to stories read at 160 words per minute. This range is ideal for people with cochlear implants as they develop their skills. In WA (and other states?) these Audio Books are available at most local libraries or can be requested. Ask your Audiologist which reading speed would be suitable for you. 

The implant companies are very aware of providing listening materials and interactive listening practice online. Hopefully the sound quality on your computer is good enough to give you a clear signal. (You can plug directly into your laptop using your audio cable, but do not plug the cable into mains operated equipment). 

Med-El (www.medel.com/us/show4/ index/id/255/titel/SoundScape) has produced the SoundScape interactive listening program.

I recommend: 

Telling Tales • 

Oceans and Continents and • 

Sentence Matrix • 

Although the first two are designed for children and teenagers, they are worthwhile for all ages. 

Advanced Bionics has interactive listening programs at: www. advancedbionics.com/CMS/Rehab- Education/The-Listening-Room/. You can register online for The Listening Room to practise interactive listening, speech tracking and listening to telephone tones (though the tones are for phones used in the USA). This website is especially useful if you have access to an ipod or MP3 player with visual controls, as you can download listening practice activities. 

Cochlear Ltd. have many links on their website to online listening exercises www.cochlear.com/au/ nucleus-support/websites-listening-practice#teens, as does the Cochlear Awareness Network at www.c-a-network.com/rehab.php 

Other websites: 

www.manythings.org/pp/ offers
• practice with minimal pairs (words the same except for one sound eg “Pain” versus “Pen”) that fine-tunes your ability to discriminate one sound from another. (The North American speaker may make things slightly harder, initially.) 

www.nlm.nih.gov/
• medlineplus/tutorial. html teaches you about various medical conditions while you listen and you can also read along to the text if you miss any words (Not suitable for hypochondriacs!) 

University of California
• Professor Robert Sweetow offers the Neurotone LACE Listening Program (DVD and web-based) www.neurotone. com with dozens of exercises that some hearing aid clinics in the US include in their packages. 

If you have experience of these programs or any others you'd like to share please email roberta@ specialisthearing.com.au. 

Radio Reading Services is a great listening practice service available in many parts of Australia which actually originated to cater for the vision impaired. They read articles 24 hours every day from newspapers, magazines and broadcast overnight programs received by satellite from the BBC. With few exceptions, everyone can improve their listening comprehension through practice. Your audiologist will be most impressed, and you might well be entertained! 

Ones we know about: 

2RPH Newcastle & Lower Hunter • 100.5 FM; 

Sydney 100.5 FM or • 

Sydney 1224 AM • 

If you know of other stations which offer this service please let us know and we'll put the details on the CICADA website for others! 

For a 2RPH program guide visit www. 2rph.org.au or request a leaflet via email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., telephone: (02) 9518 8811 or write to: 7/184 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW 2037.