LACE Auditory Training History

"It's all about the brain. It's not about the ears."

Dr. Jennifer Henderson Sabes and Dr. Robert Sweeton, have collaborated with former sound engineer Gerry Kearby on an invention that will help people improve their listening skills. Originally designed to help peole with hearing aids, the LACE (Listening and Comprehension Education) program is proving beneficial to anyone who wants to be able to communicate better. Event in San Francisco, Ca on 2/10/06 Photo by : Michael Macor/ San Francisco Chronicle Mandatory credit for Photographer and San Francisco Chronicle/ - Magazines Out
"Dr. Jennifer Henderson Sabes and Dr. Robert Sweetow have collaborated with former sound engineer Gerry Kearby on an invention that will help people improve their listening skills. Originally designed to help people with hearing aids, the LACE program is proving beneficial to anyone who wants to be able to communicate better." - Photo by: Michael Macor/ San Francisco Chronicle, 2006

When the Grateful Dead called him to consult, Robert Sweetow, director of audiology for the UCSF Medical Center, wasn’t prepared for the level of technical expertise he’d encounter in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.

“It blows away my equipment,” Sweetow says of his first visit to Ultrasound, the band’s sound company. “We think we have state-of-the-art equipment, but our equipment is archaic compared to the equipment these guys are working with. And what was amazing was the knowledge. You know, I have a Ph.D. in audiology, and the knowledge these guys have about sound is better than mine, I thought.”

This unlikely marriage of rock and science led to the creation of a computer program that can help people cope with diminished hearing. LACE – which stands for Listening and Communication Enhancement – is based on the notion that even though hearing loss can never be reversed, listening skills can be improved.

All of this came about because Sweetow connected with the Dead in the ’90s.

In 2002, Sweetow ran across a former Dead audio engineer turned software designer and entrepreneur named Gerry Kearby, who had started the first Internet music distribution system with a digital rights management component, Liquid Audio. Kearby, who suffers from tinnitus — a constant ringing in the ears that can be caused by too much exposure to loud music — was looking at a business plan from some doctors who thought they could develop a cure for his condition. Sweetow had an idea of his own that intrigued Kearby.

A screenshot of the original LACE Home Edition software, which was released in 2006. LACE evolved to include a Clinic Edition and DVD before becoming fully online-based as it's available today.

Clinical Trial Results and Publications

The Hearing Journal

The case for LACE

“…recent discoveries in neuroscience suggest that training may enhance auditory skills and even bring about changes in the central auditory system…”

The Need for and Development of LACE

“Auditory training has long been advocated to enhance communication but has never been time or cost-effective” …until now.

American Academy of Audiology

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