The Latest Word in Research

by guest blogger Dr. Nancy Tye-Murray, PhD

What if on the last day of second grade, children who have hearing loss were given tablets with fun computer games that exposed them to the teacher they would have for third grade? The games would provide auditory training using the third-grade teacher’s voice and speechreading training using the teacher’s face and voice. On the first day of third grade, the children would be able to hear and speechread the teacher very well compared to if they hadn’t received training. Moreover, they would have what I call the “Oprah Winfrey” effect, meaning that they would feel as if they knew the teacher even though they don’t, because they would have been watching and listening to her all summer while playing the computer games.

In my laboratory, we are currently conducting an experiment to determine whether this kind of training is helpful to children who have hearing loss. Children who are between the ages of six and 11 years old come to our laboratory, located in the building that attaches to the CID school, and play the computer games for about an hour, for sixteen days. An example of a game is a game that plays like the Concentration card game and another is a game that plays like an M&M dispenser.  The games teach children to make fine phonetic distinctions (e.g., the difference between the words lip  and hip), to attend to fine word differences (e.g., the difference between can and can’t ), and connected discourse (i.e., sentences connected together to form a paragraph). Children get paid for their participation. At the end, they get to keep a tablet, provided they have also played the games occasionally at home during the month following training. The games adapt to a child’s hearing abilities, so as children get better, the games get harder. But as one of our young participants remarked, “Some of the games are hard and I like the challenge!”

Our goals are to answer the following questions:

  • Is teacher-specific auditory and speechreading training beneficial to children who have hearing loss?
  • Which is better: auditory training, speechreading training or a combination of both?
  • Can the computer games we have developed be improved? For example, can we make them more fun for children to play?

Someday, we hope to make these programs available to all children who have hearing loss on our website, In the meantime, if you’re interested in having your child participate in our ongoing research this summer, please email or call Elizabeth Mauze at or 314.747.7181.

Dr. Nancy Tye-Murray is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. She teaches in the Department of Otolaryngology and the Program in Audiology and Communication Sciences. She has also helped launch a start-up venture known as customized learning: Exercises for Aural Rehabilitation™, or clEAR™.  clEAR, LLC teaches hearing-loss patients to recognize speech and to improve hearing amidst noise, doing so in a way that is engaging, entertaining and affordable.

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