Your brain is constantly changing. There’s no “off” switch—even when you’re sleeping!
Everything that you do in your day-to-day life will affect how the brain changes. The notorious study of London cab drivers found that their intensive on-the-job training resulted in larger-than-average memory centres.
Likewise with practicing the guitar or other musical instruments. “Everytime you practice,”says Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and author, “your brain assigns more neurons to that activity.”
This means that the way the brain grows and changes will depend what we’ve done to stimulate that growth. If you play bridge, tackle Sudoku puzzles and learn a new language, you will stay mentally fit, “but such change is not as directed and effective as that produced by carefully designed brain training exercises,” according to The Science of Brain Training.
What’s so careful about the design of brain training programs?
For one thing, any brain training program needs to adapt to your improvement. You would think that the perfect balance would be Goldilocks-like: not too easy, not too hard. However, research shows us that when it comes to auditory training, no auditory task is too difficult! Even on tasks that are defined as being impossible, (such as being asked to distinguish between identical tones), strong learning effects occur.
The key is that your attention is engaged, and that the task is specific to the skill that you want to learn.
So to hear better in noise, you’ll need specific exercises that target hearing in noise. These exercises “should stress the system,” says Dr. Kelly Tremblay, audiologist and professor at the University of Washington.
Dr. Robert Sweetow, the developer of LACE, one such program, says, “When a person has a shoulder surgery, the surgeon is adamant about prescribing physical therapy to strengthen the bond between the surgical intervention and the muscles adjacent to the surgical site. Audiologists need to be just as resolute in urging our patients to use rehabilitation. Every patient who reports difficulty listening should receive some therapeutic plan from the professional. That plan may or may not include hearing aids, but it certainly should include some type of listening and communication strategies training.”
Read what others have to say about this type of training.