Golda’s Balcony Playing At the New Repertory Theatre

Golda's Balcony advertisementAt the New Repertory Theatre in residence at the Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA: Golda’s Balcony, March 25-April 16, 2017

Featuring Bobbie Steinbach (Collected Stories, The Clean House), Golda’s Balcony follows Golda Meir from her humble beginnings as a Wisconsin school teacher to her meteoric rise through Israel’s early political system, becoming one of the world’s first elected female heads of state and one of the most influential women in Jewish history.

This production is Hearing Loop-enabled.

The Charles Mosesian Theater is equipped with a Tele-Coil Loop System. Patrons with hearing aids and cochlear implants can set their devices to “T-Coil” to take advantage of the assistive listening system. Patrons wishing for assistive listening devices may pick up a headset from the Box Office upon arrival at the theater.

Webinar: A Walk Through of the Leaders Support Section on the HLAA Website

photo of Valerie Stafford-MallisGuest Speaker: Valerie Stafford-Mallis

State and Chapter Leaders Webinar – Attention Chapter leaders…Do you have questions? HLAA has answers on the Leader Support page of its website.  In this webinar, we are going to take a real-time walk through of the Leaders Support section on the HLAA website.  Join us and learn where you can find answers, templates, and other helpful resources to help you do your job as an HLAA Chapter and State Association leader.  We will be exploring the following Leader Support pages:

  • Annual Requirements
  • Leader Training
  • Start A Chapter
  • Unified Membership
  • Run A Strong Chapter
  • Legal/Governance
  • Financial
  • Publicity/Promotion
  • Outreach/Service
  • Meetings
  • Members/Leaders
  • Coordinators
  • State Organizations
  • Additional Resources

Access A Walk Through of the Leaders Support Section on the HLAA Website. Once you arrive on the webinar screen, captions are activated by clicking cc, in the upper left hand corner.

Valerie Stafford-Mallis has served as HLAA’s Director of Chapter Development since January 2016.  She assists with starting new chapters and growing existing chapters. She also educates and informs chapter leaders about the many tools HLAA makes available to support chapters and how to use them. She does this by telephone, email, in-person Chapter Building Workshops, and webinars. Valerie contributes to a number of HLAA communication vehicles: Hearing Loss Magazine, the Official Leaders List Yahoo Group, the Chapter State and Development Blog, Spotlight on Chapters, and e-News. She developed and managed the Chapter/State educational track at Convention. and presented a couple of workshops. 

Dinner at Maggliano’s Little Italy

glass of wineOur next Quiet Restaurant Meetup will be on:

Friday, January 20, 2017
5:30 PM

Maggiano’s Little Italy
4 Columbus Avenue, Boston, MA (map)

 (Ask for Liz/ MeetUp table)

We have requested a table in a more quiet area with good lighting for us and hope we can chat and learn from one another.  Membership to HLAA is not required, though a great resource.

 Parking validations and public transportation available.

Please RSVP  in advance  ( to expedite the appropriate size reservation and let us know if you will arrive late.

Thanks and see you on the 20th!  (Yes, it is Inauguration Day)

Join others with hearing loss of all degrees for a chatty dinner on a Friday night! A social aspect of the Hearing Loss Association of America Boston Chapter, the Quiet Restaurant group strives to create an enjoyable Friday night out with peers despite the challenges of hearing loss.  Striving to find restaurants that will accommodate us with good lighting and private or quieter areas, not to mention allowing us to be the loudest group of all, we hope to enjoy dinner and conversation on the 3rd Fridays of the month!  

Is Auditory Training Effective in Improving Listening Skills?

photo of Dr. Mark Ross

Dr. Mark Ross, Ph.D. has contributed a wealth of wisdom and information about hearing loss treatment and management to the field of rehabilitative audioloty. As Professor Emeritus from the Department of Audiology at University of Connecticut, he was a regular contributor to Hearing Loss Magazine, sharing important information about aural rehabilitation with persons with hearing loss. Dr. Ross currently serves on the Board of HLAA’s Eastern Connecticut Chapter. He is a cochlear implant user.


by Mark Ross, Ph.D.
This article first appeared in the
Hearing Loss Magazine (Jan/Feb 2011)

Auditory training can be defined as formal listening activities whose goal is to optimize the activity of speech perception (Dr. Arthur Boothroyd).   It is based on an assumption that listeners often need help in dealing with the speech perception deficits that remain after auditory function has been optimized through an appropriate hearing aid selection process.  This point cannot be overemphasized: engaging in auditory training without first being assured that the hearing aids are doing exactly what they should be doing is a waste of time for both the clinician and the consumer.

Note that the definition above includes the words “formal listening activities.” This serves to distinguish auditory training from the auditory learning that takes place whenever hearing aid users, particularly new users, are simply listening to speech. The amplified signals often sound a bit different to them, a bit strange. Hearing aid dispensers, from time immemorial, have always counseled new hearing aid users that it may take some time for them to “get used” to the new sounds the hearing aids are providing to their ears and their brains. It is an observation well grounded in years of experience.

In fact, a great deal of informal “auditory training” does take place during this initial hearing aid (and cochlear implant) adjustment phase. Hearing-impaired people are constantly trying to make sense of speech signals that are distorted in some fashion. Listening to speech is always a bit of a guessing game for them, in which they use their knowledge of the language and the context to fill in the acoustic gaps and distortions of the incoming speech signals. People do get better at this, over time. A formal listening program of auditory training assumes that hearing aid users have completed this initial adjustment stage, i.e., that they have reached a plateau in their listening skills and are now ready to attempt to further improve their performance through explicit training.

While auditory training has always theoretically been included within the scope of practice of Communication Disorders professionals, it was rarely used clinically – for several reasons. One was that, unlike speechreading (the other procedure which basically defined aural rehabilitation years ago), auditory training does not lend itself to group lessons; it must be practiced on a one-to-one basis. The other reason was that convincing research evidence attesting to its value was relatively sparse and did not appear to justify the time and expense that the activity required. But this view of auditory training has been changing in the last decade or so, thanks to developments in three areas.

The advent of the cochlear implant (CI) several decades ago was the first of these developments. The auditory sensations that the first generation of CI users received was so different from what they had been used to that they needed help in adjusting to, and learning to comprehend, these new and strange sound sensations. This is akin to orthopedic patients who routinely receive physical therapy after some sort of surgery (hip, knee, shoulder, etc.). In other words, if physical therapy helped people with post-surgical physical issues, why wouldn’t auditory therapy (training) be similarly helpful for people with hearing problems? And why limit therapy only to CI users, why not people wearing hearing aids as well? While the practice of auditory training had been with us for years, it seems not entirely coincidental that, since the advent of the CI, auditory training has been seeing a revival for both hearing aid and CI implant users.

The second of these developments was the emerging appreciation that mature neural systems – once viewed as immutable – are now beginning to be seen as malleable and subject to modification. Neuroscientists, using such procedures as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have quantified neural plasticity in adult human subjects. It appears that structural and physiological changes in the central nervous system can take place as a consequence of therapeutic intervention, such as repeated exposure to meaningful auditory stimuli in a training situation. Furthermore, there is evidence that these changes can be measured in the way the cortex responds to sound. In short, it seems that old dogs can learn new tricks.

The third development that has encouraged a new look at auditory training is the widespread use and familiarity with the personal computer and the Internet. Before this, it simply was not economically practical for clinicians to offer this service. To be effective, therapy has to be conducted frequently and over a relatively long period of time; any agency, including non-profit ones, concerned with the bottom line simply couldn’t afford to offer it as a routine clinical procedure. With personal computers and/or online training, however, it is now possible for people to conduct frequent training sessions at home, at a great savings in cost and personal convenience. The most effective model, in my opinion, is a blend of clinical and home activity, where the professionals can interact with the clients to monitor and provide assistance when needed.

Traditionally, auditory training can be separated into the analytic and synthetic approaches.  In the analytic technique, the focus is on the elements of speech, to improve a person’s ability to identify the various sounds of speech, specifically those with which the person has difficulty. Thus in training vowel identification, a person may be required to distinguish between such words as /beet/ and /boot/, which have two vowels that considerably differ acoustically. From there, a person may be challenged to distinguish finer and finer vowel differences. In analytic consonant training, the vowel remains the same, but now the target consonant is changed. This training also proceeds from large to finer acoustic distinctions. Analytic training is termed a “bottoms up” approach because the intent is to improve overall speech comprehension by focusing on the acoustic “building blocks” of speech messages. The reasoning is that if someone can reliably distinguish the acoustic elements of speech, then he or she should be better able to comprehend the larger units, such as sentences and paragraphs.

A synthetic training approach, on the other hand, employs meaningful sentences as training stimuli. Most often the sentences are presented to the listeners in the presence of noise, thus mimicking the situation in which most people with hearing loss have the greatest difficulty. The task of the listener is to focus on comprehending the sentence meaning without attending to specific acoustic elements. Modern techniques use a   presentation method in which the noise level is either increased or decreased automatically, depending upon whether or not the sentence was correctly understood. The intent is to ensure that listeners are continually challenged during the training session. The goal is for a listener to be able to comprehend speech in increasing levels of noise. As opposed to the “bottoms up” approach of the analytic technique, synthetic training is termed “top down,” as it requires listeners to employ their knowledge of language and context to fill in the acoustic/perceptual gaps in the message. In my judgment, both techniques have a place and both should be employed.

But now the central question of this article: Can auditory training assist hearing aid and cochlear implant users to improve their listening skills beyond that seen when people “get used to” the devices they are wearing? The short answer is “Yes,” provided the program is appropriate and sufficiently intensive. A few years ago, Sweetow and Palmer reviewed all the studies they could find that might even remotely be related to auditory training. They found 213 of them, but only six met the inclusion criteria that they employed (i.e., whether the study was “on topic” and met various research requirements).   The results of these six studies, dating from 1970 through 1996, suggested that auditory training can improve speech recognition skills to some extent, especially if it used a synthetic training approach. The best results were obtained with the more intensive programs (longer duration and more sessions per week).

Recent research on auditory training has focused on home-based training programs, with results that are less ambiguous than the early studies.   Currently, the most popular such program is termed LACE (for “Listening and Communication Enhancement”). This program can be completed at home, with or without the online guidance of a professional. In addition to the usual task incorporated in an auditory training program (recognizing speech in noise), LACE includes other relevant listening dimensions, such as comprehending rapid speech, and improving working auditory memory and processing speed. In a study published a few years ago, Sweetow and Henderson-Sabes found that their subjects made significant improvements in all the listening and cognitive dimensions for which they received specific training. It is reasonable to assume that these gains would positively impact on a person’s ability to communicate in the real-world. Furthermore, the study demonstrated significant improvement with listening tests for which the subjects had not been directly trained, demonstrating generalization beyond the training material. But it does take a sincere commitment by the user: five days a week, for at least thirty minutes per session, for a minimum of a month (see

A new entry into the home-based auditory training market is termed “ReadMyQuips.” This is an audio-visual training program in which the subject both sees and hears the quips (sentences) being spoken. (Disclosure: I consulted on this program during some stages of its development.) It is an adaptive program in which the audio signal is alternately raised or lowered depending upon whether or not the answer was correct.  The response format is that of a crossword puzzle, with each box containing a word not a letter. The entire quip (taken from such luminaries as Groucho Marx and Winston Churchill) is spoken and the listener fills in all the boxes that he or she can. The format is meant to be entertaining and to engage a subject’s interest for a long period of time. Two studies were carried out with this program; both showed that the majority of subjects significantly improved their performance. Further, the analysis showed that improvements were directly related to the duration of time that a subject worked on it (see

While cochlear implants have been extensively studied, relatively little formal research has been carried out specifically on the effectiveness of auditory training. At the House Ear Institute, Dr. Qian-Je Fu and his colleagues have conducted much of the available research and have employed both analytic and synthetic approaches. For analytic training and testing, they developed a program termed CAST, or Computer Assisted Speech Training. A version of this (called Sound and Way Beyond) is now available commercially through the Cochlear Corp. Ten experienced cochlear implant (CI) users tried the program at home for about one hour a day, five days a week, for one month or more.  The average results demonstrated significant improvements in the subjects’ vowel and consonant scores after training.  Other studies, conducted at the House Institute and elsewhere, required identifying sentences under noisy conditions. The results of these studies also showed significant improvements in sentence recognition after training. Overall, it seems that both bottoms up and top down training can produce gains in the speech perception skills of CI users.  For the interested person, listening activities can be found on all three cochlear implant websites (,, Practiced sufficiently assiduously, I have no doubt that individuals can improve their performance using these resources.

A number of authors have cautioned us that in order to be effective, a formal auditory training program must meet certain criteria: • One, very pertinent for this day and age, is that it must be cost effective.

  • It must be sufficiently engaging to sustain participation, not too easy and not too difficult.
  • It must be practical and easily accessible (home-based is best).
  • It should provide immediate feedback regarding responses.
  • Optimally, it should incorporate elements of both bottoms up and top down processing.
  • Optimally, too, it should include the active collaboration of a knowledgeable professional.

    From my perspective, it does appear that auditory training is being resurrected from the dormant state it has been in since after WW II. Current developments, particularly in computers and the Internet, permit activities we could only dream about years ago. While professionals have a responsibility of making this option (home-based programs) known to their clients, it is still their clients – the person with a hearing loss – who often has to take the initiative. When it comes to hearing better, passivity is not an option.

A Tinnitus Success Story


Gael Hannan, Editor

The Better Hearing Consumer addresses the personal experience of living with hearing loss. Editor Gael Hannan, and her occasional guest bloggers, explore every corner of the hearing loss life with humor and poignancy.

Jan. 2, 2017 – As a recent inductee into the world of tinnitus, I am pleased to welcome guest writer Glenn Schweitzer whose new book on tinnitus will be of interest to anyone dealing with those unwelcome – and unceasing – bells, whistles, roars and whooshing playing in their head.   

By Glenn Schweitzer

For as long as I can remember, silence had a sound.

When I was a kid, I thought everyone could hear the soft, high-pitched tone that I could hear when it was quiet. It wasn’t a bad sound; it was just normal.

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with an incurable inner ear disorder called Ménière’s disease, and suddenly the quiet tone that never bothered me became the sound of sirens blasting in my ears.

When you live with tinnitus, the medical term for ringing in the ears, the sound never stops and can turn your life into a living nightmare.

Today, I’m happy to report that my tinnitus doesn’t bother me at all. Several years back, I stumbled onto a simple exercise that radically altered the way I react to the sound.

And it changed everything.  [Full article]