Most children can listen to the teacher and tune out extraneous noises, allowing them to succeed in school. But for kids with dyslexia, this proves to be a challenge. Dyslexic children are not able to filter normal school noises: rustling from restless children, coughing, the squeaking of the hamster wheel, pencil tapping, the backup alarm from the construction site next door.
Dylexia is a neurological disorder that affects reading, spelling and processing in up to 17 percent of children. Previous studies have pointed to a lack of phonemic awareness at the root of dyslexia. Now, inability to shield competing noise may be another part of the puzzle.
The study was authored by the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University and is published in the Nov. 12 issue of Neuron.
from the university news release, Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.:
"The ability to sharpen or fine-tune repeating elements is crucial to hearing speech in noise because it allows for superior 'tagging' of voice pitch, an important cue in picking out a particular voice within background noise."
The study had children watching a video with the sound "DA superimposed through an earphone. The children were asked to repeat sentences presented to them as the noise increased in volume. Good readers were able to tune in to the repeated speech, actually improving the ability to hear. Poor readers did not show any improvement in encoding. Also, children who were able to adapt and improve also performed better on behavioral tests, where they were able to pick up speech in noisy backgrounds.
Possible interventions for dyslexic students could be seating them near the front of the class, away from distractions and closer to the teacher. Wireless technologies such as headphones might also compensate for the reduced ability to filter background noise.
photograph copyright: Anthony Kelly
source: Northwestern University