In Loving Memory of Samuel Bomgard
Effective dyslexia remediation specifically designed for older struggling readers (age 7+).

Exercising Auditory Processing - Does it help?

By C. Mark Wessinger PhD and Hans J.A. Dekkers

What is auditory processing

Auditory (temporal) processing relates to our sensory and cognitive ability to discern sounds. At the sensory level it pertains to the ability to sense sounds and sound variations or changes (volume/frequency/pitch changes). At the cognitive level it pertains to our ability to interpret the discerned sounds.

To illustrate the difference between cognitive level and sensory level, think of an aircraft with specific performance abilities. Pilot training can cause the airplane to be handled more appropriately and effectively, but pilot training cannot improve the performance potential of the airplane itself. Training relates to higher cognitive skills, where the actual performance pertains to the hardware, the engineered qualities, which are static and immutable. There is scientific support that auditory training can help improve speech perception (cognitive level), but there is no consensus in the scientific literature that improvements are scored at the sensory level.

Commercially available auditory processing training programs come with a combined bottom-up (sensory level) and top-down (cognitive level) approach. We are currently unaware of any scientific evidence declaring that children can be trained to improve auditory discrimination at the perceptual or sensory level. In fact, Huck and Wright (Late Maturation of Auditory Perceptual Learning) demonstrated that adults were able to improve auditory perceptual processing through training, but children were not.

What is the relevance of auditory training for children with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. Four out five subtypes of dyslexia share a phonological decoding deficit core. These children demonstrate a lack of neural activity between the three (main) brain areas used in decoding: Temporal Lobe, Visual Cortex, and the Temporal Parietal Occipital Junction.

When children suffer reduced sensory auditory functioning, this would certainly affect the quality and quantity of correct accumulation of speech related sounds (phonemes for example). This, in turn, would reduce the pace of, and overall potential to develop, phonemic awareness.

Auditory training may aid children at the cognitive level (= learning to pay more attention to minute differences in sound), but if the problem is sensory then current scientific understanding suggests that the sensory component will not improve. Having said that: If a child does indeed suffer reduced sensory performance, then it is noteworthy that optimization through training of their cognitive auditory abilities could allow the child to maximize what they can discern out of their weak sensory input. To illustrate this, think of listening to a very weak and crackly signal on a radio, where we think of the radio as "sensory." Very deliberate listening with the desire to truly hear what is being said on the radio will reap more understanding than casual listening.

May we expect significant improvements in a child with dyslexia when training auditory processing?

Current scientific findings suggest not. May it help the rare child? Quite possibly, if the cause of their phonological processing weakness is due to an underdeveloped cognitive level auditory processing.

Science Papers

Huyck, Julia Jones, and Beverly A. Wright. "Late Maturation of Auditory Perceptual Learning." Developmental Science 14.3 (2011): 614-21. Print.

Irvine, Dexter R.f. "Auditory Cortical Plasticity: Does It Provide Evidence for Cognitive Processing in the Auditory Cortex?" Hearing Research 229 (2007): 158-70. Print.

Dahmen, Johannes C., and Andrew J. King. "Learning to Hear: Plasticity of Auditory Cortical Processing." Current Opinion in Neurobiology (2007): 456-64. Print.

Ohl, Frank W, and Henning Scheich. "Learning-induced Plasticity in Animal and Human Auditory Cortex." Current Opinion in Neurobiology (2005): 470-77. Print.

Kraus, Nina, Erika Skoe, Alexandra Parbery-Clark, and Richard Ashley. "Experience-induced Malleability in Neural Encoding of Pitch, Timbre, and Timing." Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2009): 543-57. Print.

Talebi, Hossein., Moossavi, Abdollah., Lofti, Yons., and Faghihzadeh, Soghrat. "Effects of Vowel Auditory Training on Concurrent Speech Segregation in Hearing Impaired Children." Annals of Otology, Rhinology & Laryngology 124.1 (2015): 13-20. Print.

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DYNAREAD: Grounded in Reality

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Dynaread has been developed in the trenches of actual remediation, with our feet firmly planted on the ground. Scientific research is essential (and we consistently use it), but we also understand the realities at home and in school. Not all homes have two parents, not all Dad's or Mom's are always home, there is oftentimes no money, schools lack staff or funding. We listen, we observe, we discuss, and we build the best solutions we can for older (ages 7+) struggling readers.

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