Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Auditory Filtering and Reading

A Northwestern University study researched how children processed three sounds with background noise present in the room. The three sounds, "ba", "ga" and "da" were difficult for children to interpret. The researchers used a new technology that is sensitive enough to measure how the nervous system represents differences in sounds in each person. This study is the first to indicate a relationship between reading ability and neural encoding of speech sounds. The sounds of "ba", "ga" and "da" is interpreted more accurately in strong readers and children who can filter out background noise. Previous research has shown that the same area that hears speech in noise is enhanced in people with musical experience. Therefore, the researchers recommend the following for poor readers: reduce background noise, auditory training and incorporating music.

Think of all the children now with auditory hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity. Previous research has shown that children with autism have auditory filtering sensitivities. Many children, including those with sensory processing disorder experience auditory defensiveness. Auditory sensitivities greatly effect a child's abilities to function each day. It can be extremely scary and upsetting for certain children when there are loud, unexpected noises or very distracting if background noises are present (windows open, peers talking, etc.) Now, add another potential symptom of auditory sensitivity - poor reading skills.

This is a great study to provide a rational to teacher's when you are requesting modifications in the classroom such as a reduction in background noise, preferential seating or headphones. Also, don't forget to add in the tip on combining music with speech sounds.

Check out Tuned Into Learning - on Daily Living Skills and Self Regulation. This program combines music wtih visual picture and text supports.

Reference: Pat Vaughan Tremmel, Northwestern University. How Noise and Nervous System Get in Way of Reading Skills. Retrieved July 15, 2009 from

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