Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So Much To Blog...and So Little Time...Let's Talk About Hearing

Ahhhh, back for more therapy...that is what I consider my blog. I like to think that when I write I'm helping someone somewhere and I know that I'm working through a multitude of thoughts, worries and concerns that when put on paper don't seem as overwhelming to me.

As most of you know Sam has been in a whirlwind of medical appointments. One of those appointments was audiology. Sam has a mild bi-lateral conductive hearing loss which has contributed to his delayed speech and auditory processing issues. To read about Sam's journey to hearing, read here. Sam has a BAHA hearing aid which he wears on a baseball hat. Sam's hearing was re-checked and he still demonstrated a mild bi-lateral conductive hearing loss.

The BAHA has really helped to improve Sam's speech but it didn't have as much of an impact on listening, processing and communicating. Here's my theory, Sam didn't hear well so the process of listening was frustrating. He picked up as much as he could visually and became an excellent visual learner therefore turning off his auditory channel which didn't seem to function well anyway. With the BAHA he has selective listening but he is so used to not using his auditory channel that you really have to get his attention for him to activate listening and then to process what he is hearing. Sam likes to talk at you instead of with you. To get him to talk with you, you have to get his attention which means asking him to stop and listen. Unfortunately listening appears to be a lot of work and Sam will only do this for short spans of time. So we are working on helping him to expand this window of listening.

One area we work with is The Listening Program (TLP). TLP as stated in their information is a method that can facilitate profound change in beginning to experienced listeners, in those recovering from brain injury or dealing with sensory processing challenges to those who are seeking academic or career achievement.

Listening is a process that involves functional, emotional and psychological components. It relates to the function of our neuro and auditory physiology, and the motivation and desire to communicate. Listening is more than the passive act of hearing. It requires the ability to direct the ear and brain to work in harmony to perceive, discriminate, and process particular sounds, along with the desire to communicate.

Basically Sam's ears and brain are not always working in harmony. As I look through the list of symptoms of auditory processing problems I can pretty much check off each one as an issue for Sam.
  • Has difficulty listening and paying attention. (Yep, that would be Sam and most of the males in my household.)
  • Misunderstands spoken information, directions or questions. (Welcome to my world!)
  • Frequently asks "huh?" or "what"? (Add that to the 1000 times he says Mom in a day.)
  • Needs to have directions or information repeated. (Which can lead to taking an average task and adding 20 minutes.)
  • Has poor auditory sequential memory (We are still at a 4)
  • Is easily distracted by background noise (To Sam conversation is background noise not a chance to communicate) (To Sam the noises in the environment trump a human voice every time.)
  • Finds some sounds uncomfortable or painful. (We did not see this until we added the FM system) (My voice appears to be painful.)
  • Has trouble hearing similarities and differences in sounds. (Sam can tell you the sound of a letter if he see's it but can not always identify the letter if he hears the sound.)
  • Has poor phonics skills for reading. (Don't even get me started...HELLO...there is a reason why we work on site word reading extensively or the boy would never be able to read)
TLP is a safe, effective, drug-free approach that helps improve brain function, reduce stress, and trains the brain in the auditory skills needed to effectively listen, learn, and communicate. It consists of 10 cd's which address full spectrum, sensory integration, speech and language and high spectrum.

TLP works on these related functions.

Zone 1-Sensory Integration (lower frequency sounds) which impact balance, rhythm, coordination, muscle tone, body awareness, sense of direction, laterality, right/left discrimination.
Zone 2-Speech and Language (mid and higher frequency sounds) which impact memory, concentration, attention, speech, language and vocal control.
Zone 3-High Spectrum (higher frequency sounds) which impact energy, intuition, ideas, ideals, spirituality, creativity and auditory cohesion.

With all of these benefits I do TLP along with Sam. I use a splice to allow him to be connected to his wireless or audio adapter and I use headphones. We both benefit from this activity.

TLP using a bone conduction headset is what helped us to identify Sam's hearing loss. He functioned better in communication after listening to TLP with the bone conduction headset. Now we use his BAHA as a direct input of TLP. We can do this with an audio adapter or his new wireless FM system. Here is what Sam's FM receiver looks like attached to his BAHA. For those wondering, that is one expensive hat, the BAHA cost around $6,500.00 and the receiver adds an additional $1,400.00.

The transmitter then gets connected to the cd player.

And Sam plays with his trucks in the sand while he listens to the 15 minute segments twice a day.

Sooooo, what do I notice in using TLP with Sam and for myself. I recently listened to a book on tape and honestly it was very difficult for me to listen and follow, I found myself having to go back and relisten a lot. I also have noticed that I struggle with background noise and staying in a conversation and if I'm completely honest I talk more than I listen. Since doing TLP I enjoy books on tape and don't feel the need to rewind, I think I listen better although I still love to talk (hence the blog) and I can stay with conversations better. You are never too old to improve your listening skills.

As for Sam, not as easy to determine but the window of listening seems to be increasing. We are still making progress in speech and listening and his sensory sensitivities have continued to decrease. He is trying to communicate more even picking up on conversations that normally he would have just shut out. TLP is yet another piece of the puzzle to help Sam communicate. I have learned on this journey that each piece gets us closer to the we continue on.

To learn more about TLP go to for a provider in your area. We purchased the program through our NACD program and share it with members of our Wisconsin chapter.

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