It may sound strange but we read with our ears. A recent study at Northwestern provides clear evidence to support the groundbreaking theories developed by the late Alfred Tomatis, M.D. in the mid twentieth century about the role the ear plays in reading.
The vast majority of school-aged children can focus on the voice of a teacher amid the cacophony of the typical classroom thanks to a brain that automatically focuses on relevant, predictable and repeating auditory information, according to new research from Northwestern University.
But for children with developmental dyslexia, the teacher’s voice may get lost in the background noise of banging lockers, whispering children, playground screams and scraping chairs, the researchers say. Their study appears in the Nov. 12 issue of Neuron.
Recent scientific studies suggest that children with developmental dyslexia — a neurological disorder affecting reading and spelling skills in 5 to 10 percent of school aged children — have difficulties separating relevant auditory information from competing noise.
The research from Northwestern University’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory not only confirms those findings but presents biological evidence that children who report problems hearing speech in noise also suffer from a measurable neural impairment that adversely affects their ability to make use of regularities in the sound environment.
“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,” said Nina Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.
In the article “Context-dependent encoding in the human auditory brainstem relates to hearing speech-in-noise: Implications for developmental dyslexia,” Kraus and co-investigators Bharath Chandrasekaran, Jane Hornickel, Erika Skoe and Trent Nicol demonstrate that the remarkable ability of the brain to tune into relevant aspects in the soundscape is carried out by an adaptive auditory system that continuously changes its activity based on the demands of context.1 Click here for full article.
These findings are consistent with part of the underlying theories behind our work at Advanced Brain Technologies. This research and studies on musical training at Northwestern provides support to warrant further studies on the potential of using music listening therapy (The Listening Program®) as an intervention for struggling readers.
1 Retrieved November 12, 2009 http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-11/nu-nbf110309.php