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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 August, 2003, 17:26 GMT 18:26 UK
Computer game 'boosts hearing'
Child playing computer game
Even ordinary computer games can improve sensory perception
A simple computer game can dramatically improve children's listening skills by teaching them to distinguish between sounds, new research suggests.

The game is said to boost children's hearing by the equivalent of two years in just a few weeks.

Phonomena was devised by Professor David Moore at Oxford University as an aid for children with language problems.

But the latest trials show it can help any child, according to the study published in New Scientist magazine.

Every child's dream of homework of hours spent playing computer games may become a reality
Professor Moore
Professor Moore believes playing Phonomena can enhance general language ability in the same way that catching a ball improves hand-to-eye co-ordination.

The game aims to improve a child's ability to distinguish between different phonemes, the basic sounds that form the building blocks of language.

Up to a fifth of all children are thought to have problems hearing the differences between some sounds.

In the game, children have to distinguish between pairs of phonemes such as the "i" sound in the word "bit" and the "e" from "bet".

Listening skill

The phonemes are then gradually blurred to make them more similar and difficult to tell apart.

In the latest trials, 18 children aged eight to 10 played the game three times a week for three weeks.

The team found a dramatic improvement in the group, whose listening skill equivalent ages were raised an average of 2.4 years compared with 12 children who did not play the game.

Professor Moore said even ordinary computer games that engage with key sensory skills could make a big difference in education.

He said: "In future, every child's dream of homework consisting of hours spent playing computer games may well become a reality.

"It's a bit like teaching someone to catch a ball.

"Sensory performance is no different from motor performance - as far as we know, the neural processes driving them both are the same."

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