“The distinction between auditory dyslexia and challenges with auditory processing has to do with the interpretation of language, which is complex. Here is an example. In the English language, we have active and passive sentences. “The boy hit the ball” is an active sentence. “The ball was hit by the boy” is a passive sentence that means the same thing. All of us take longer and have more difficulty understanding passive sentences. Imagine a person with auditory dyslexia hearing all sentences as passive ones.” - Drew Sutton, MD, Board-Certified Otolaryngologist
Dyslexia is a neurological condition that can make it difficult for individuals to understand and read written language. In the not-so-distant past, dyslexia was not widely recognized, and many people thought these individuals simply had generalized learning disabilities.
It wasn’t until 1968 that dyslexia was properly defined. Today dyslexia is best described as a disability surrounding written language. Those with dyslexia can have a difficult time reading and writing but have a normal level of intelligence.
For those with dyslexia, it can be challenging to read and write because of an error at a neurological processing level. Letters in a word can easily get jumbled, and it can be hard to identify speech sounds and take longer to read.
Dyslexia can differ in its presentation and level of general severity. While one person may have difficulty reading at a normal pace, another with dyslexia may read but cannot correctly spell words.
Similar to standard dyslexia, auditory dyslexia involves the processing of information and is not a problem with the senses. Auditory dyslexia is a condition where an individual has a difficult time processing spoken language.
Below is a closer look at everything you need to know about auditory dyslexia. Educating yourself and promoting awareness can help create less of a stigma surrounding learning and communicative disabilities and can help to normalize them.
Auditory Dyslexia vs. Hearing Loss
Auditory dyslexia is marked by a difficult time processing verbal communication. Auditory dyslexia is often confused with hearing loss because the tell-tale signs can be very similar. Miss hearing people frequently, being unable to discern what someone is saying, and having difficulty understanding others when competing noises are present, are symptoms shared by hearing loss and auditory dyslexia.
The difference between the two arises when looking into the exact cause of the symptoms. Hearing is a complex process that involves several different structures within the body. The ear, eardrum, cochlea, auditory nerve, and brain all play an important role in hearing and perceiving the sounds around us.
Below is a closer look at the different forms of hearing impairment and how they differ from one another.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is a hearing impairment caused by an issue with the outer and middle ear. To sense sound, sound waves need to enter the ear canal and vibrate a structure known as the eas drum. The eardrum then oscillates small bones in the middle ear that then conduct those vibrations to the structure known as the cochlea.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by an obstruction of the ear canal, a perforated eardrum membrane, or fluid buildup in the middle ear. If you have ever had an ear infection or have muffled hearing while sick, it was most likely due to conductive hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is a hearing impairment caused by the inner ear or the transfer of signals to the brain.
After the sound conduction across the middle ear, the bone called the stapes transfers this movement onto the structure known as the cochlea. The cochlea takes the incoming vibrations from the stapes and converts them into electrical impulses sent to the brain for interpretation.
With sensorineural hearing loss, the cochlea can have a hard time sensing certain pitches. The cochlea is a snail-shaped organ filled with fluid and full of hair-like receptors within it. When the stapes vibrate the cochlea through a structure known as the oval window, the fluid oscillates and causes the corresponding hair for that pitch to send an electrical impulse to the brain.
Due to age or excessive exposure to loud noises, the sensory hairs in the cochlea can become damaged and be unable to relay sounds to the brain.
The last step involved with hearing is the decoding of nerve impulses into recognizable sounds. The brain is incredibly complex and can take the seemingly binary impulses sent from the ear into identifiable sounds.
Auditory processing disorders involve difficulty for the brain to correctly identify certain sounds and discern them from one another. General auditory processing disorders represent a hearing impairment completely independent of hearing acuity but rather a difficulty discerning differences in sound stimuli.
Auditory dyslexia is a higher order of auditory processing disorder that specifically looks at the impairment related to verbal language processing.
Central auditory processing disorders mainly focus on identifying sound, while auditory dyslexia concerns higher cognitive functioning required to identify a verbal language.
Those with auditory dyslexia have good auditory acuity but can have difficulty understanding verbal information in a reasonable amount of time. Words can easily be jumbled, and it can result in a more challenging time comprehending verbal information.
Ways To Help Auditory Dyslexia
It can be difficult to have auditory dyslexia as you are more prone to miss out on important information and need people to repeat themselves. Many auditory processing disorders today are caught early within childhood since these impairments can become increasingly evident in a classroom setting where verbal lectures are a primary source of teaching.
When detected early, several therapies can be implemented to help children develop skills that can allow them an easier time with verbal communication.
Regardless of age, there are ways you can help manage and mitigate the impacts of auditory dyslexia. Below are a few strategies you can utilize for an easier time hearing others.
Verbal Noise Isolation
One of the most difficult parts of having auditory dyslexia is conversing with many different competing sounds. A person without a processing condition can selectively filter out what sounds are important and can be ignored on the fly.
With auditory dyslexia, this task can be more difficult and require individuals to strain their hearing.
Thanks to technology, there is a way to artificially filter out background noise and allow individuals to hear speech more clearly.
Audien’s EV3 is a hearing aid that contains Clear Sound + technology that can amplify speech while reducing background noise. This technological filter can enable those with auditory processing conditions to understand better what people are saying even with competing sounds present.
Verbal communication is not only reserved for talking to others person to person, but it also pertains to getting information through digital media.
Podcasts, T.V. shows, lectures, and zoom meetings all revolve around digital sounds. Poor quality speakers and headphones can make it more difficult for those with auditory dyslexia to identify and comprehend what is being said.
Getting a pair of good quality noise-canceling headphones can allow individuals to drown out competing noises and have a crystal clear idea of what is being said.
If you have ever watched an overseas film, you likely are familiar with subtitles. Subtitles allow people who speak different languages to enjoy the same film since individuals would otherwise be unaware of what is happening with people speaking another language.
It can be much easier for those with hearing issues to read what is being said than trying to hear with impaired hearing. Thanks to the power of technology, some software is available that can recognize speech and convert it into text.
For auditory processing disorders, having real-time subtitles can be immensely helpful in getting all the information in the first go. Most smartphones can detect speech and dictate.
Auditory dyslexics may benefit from dictation software if the dyslexia is more auditory-focused than written. Even if the dyslexia is carried over into written language, having a transcript to review later can allow people with dyslexia to get the same information without constantly asking for people to repeat themselves.
In summary, auditory dyslexia involves difficulty perceiving verbal language. Auditory dyslexics can have excellent hearing acuity, which differentiates it from traditional hearing loss. People with auditory dyslexia specifically have a problem when it comes to spoken language.
While having auditory dyslexia can make it more difficult to understand others, there are several different technological innovations and therapies that can help those with auditory processing issues and auditory dyslexia live a more normal life.