Learn to listen with video games

“My kids don’t seem to ever listen,” is a phrase most parents utter at some point. While kids are not known to be the most perceptive listeners, there’s a possibility your child may not be able to help it.  
 

A condition called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) affects an estimated 60,000 Australian children. One of the most common CAPDs among children is spatial processing disorder (SPD). Left untreated, SPD can adversely affect your child’s ability to learn and develop.

If your child has been checked out by an audiologist and SPD is the culprit, fear not there is a remedy. A sometimes foe for parents is now a helpful tool: video games (and don’t worry, there isn’t a disgruntled bird or crushable candy in sight). National Acoustic Laboratories (a research division of Australian Hearing) developed the gaming Sound Storm to help children kick SPD to the curb through game play.

What is spatial processing disorder (SPD)?

Most person can hone in on certain sounds and suppress others. Think of those times when you suddenly focus on a conversation because you hear your name or tune out chatter while working. Some children however, have a hard time taking in sounds around them and are unable to distinguish certain sounds from others. SPD prevents children making sense of the sounds that are sent to their brains, especially speech. 
Some telltale signs your child has SPD:

  • Easily confused

  • Says ‘huh’ frequently

  • Sits silently because they don’t know what to do

  • Misbehaves

  • Loses self-confidence.Repeated bouts of ear infections, such as glue ear, during early childhood, make children more prone to developing SPD. This applies even if the infections were years ago. SPD means children may struggle to concentrate during conversations or pay attention in school.
    The good news is that the auditory training software contained in Sound Storm is proven1 to help students become better listeners.

How does Sound Storm work?

Although the Sound Storm game resembles other pure entertainment apps children often play, the game is designed to reduce the effects of SPD.

Space Storm is set in a rich and compelling space fantasy world, the player is guided by Nala, who gives the player instructions through audio cues. Players are asked to select the appropriate image in response to Nala’s voice. While this happens two alternate voices at varying volumes play over the top, the player must learn to distinguish between these voices and Nala’s to progress.

Players can re-listen to audio and re-attempt incorrect answers, correct answers will award them points. Points are tracked and reported so players and parents can view progress. No game is made without a degree of difficulty to it, as the child plays through the game Nala’s voice will become gradually quieter. If your child wishes to get through all ten levels across nine unique galactic worlds, they’ll need to really tune in.

The multi-layered reward system encourages accountability so the player feels compelled to use the app everyday as designed. NAL recommends children play two games a day (around 15 minutes of play), five days a week. After around 100 to 120 sessions (around three months) your child should have vastly reduced effects of SPD.

Results

Sound Storm is based on the Windows program LiSN & Learn (Cameron & Dillon, 2012), which specialises in the reduction of conditions such as SPD. From NAL’s research and the in-game mechanics 100 per cent of players show improvement after playing Sound Storm for the recommended three months. Children improve their hearing ability in noisy environments, and almost all achieved normal hearing as a result of using Sound Storm.
 
While the game is designed for children aged 6 to 12 years, older users may potential benefit, but there isn’t any long-term research to prove this definitively. Parents interested in Sound Storm for their own child should seek the advice of an audiologist before purchasing.

How to get Sound Storm

Sound Storm is designed to be used with the iPad3 and onwards and requires iOS 8.1 or later. It can also be played on compatible smartphones, but this is not recommended due to the small screen size.
The app is available to download through iTunes for $279.99.

 
National Acoustic Laboratories is the research division of Australian Hearing, a leading government provider of services for children and adults with hearing loss. For further information about the Sound Storm app, or additional services for children with hearing loss give us a call on 1300 412 512.
 
1Research studies (Cameron & Dillon, 2011 and Cameron, Glyde & Dillon, 2012 and Cameron, Glyde, Dillon, King & Gillies 2015).