Auditory-based communication skills are developed at a young age and are maintained throughout our lives. However, some individuals — both young and old — encounter difficulties in achieving or maintaining communication proficiency. Biological signals arising from hearing sounds relate to real-life communication skills such as listening to speech in noisy environments and reading, pointing to an intersection between hearing and cognition. Musical experience, amplification, and software-based training can improve these biological signals. These findings of biological plasticity, in a variety of subject populations, relate to attention and auditory memory, and represent an integrated auditory system influenced by both sensation and cognition.

Learning outcomes: The reader will (1) explain that the auditory system is malleable to experience and training, (2) identify the ingredients necessary for auditory learning to successfully be applied to communication, (3) recognize that the auditory brainstem response to complex sounds (cABR) is a window into the integrated auditory system, and (4) identify examples of how cABR can be used to track the outcome of experience and training.