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Hearing old stories can spark faster recovery for coma patients

When a loved one suffers an injury in an accident and falls into a coma, we largely rely on modern medicine to pull them through.

Emergence from a coma, which is a state of unconsciousness in which patients don't open their eyes, can take anywhere from days to years. But research from a major Midwestern hospital shows that when patients hear the voices of family members telling them familiar stories on a frequent basis, a speedier recovery is possible.

The study showed that patients who wore headphones and listened to recorded stories four times a day for six weeks recovered consciousness much faster and had a better recovery than the patients who didn't.

"We believe hearing those stories in parents' and siblings' voices exercises the parts of the brain responsible for long-term memories," the lead author of the report, completed in 2015, said. "That stimulation helped trigger the first glimmer of awareness."

Coma patients treated in this manner also can come out of unconsciousness easier and respond to conversations and directions sooner. That means they can take a more active role in their tools of rehabilitation: occupational, speech and physical therapy.

This method also benefits family members who want to do all they can to help.

"Families feel helpless and out of control when a loved one is in a coma," the lead researcher said. "It's a terrible feeling for them. This gives them a sense of control over the patient's recovery and the chance to be part of the treatment."

Since the study came out, it is unknown how many hospitals and rehabilitation centers have adopted this technique in an attempt to improve the condition of coma patients. But one thing is certain: It's a no-cost treatment.

And the cost of treatment for coma patients is exorbitant, and bills are the last thing family members should have to worry about at this time. When the injury occurred in an accident in which someone else was negligent, a personal-injury attorney can work on your behalf to try to take some of that worry off your shoulders.

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