Home Mind & Brain Auditory Attention Is Linked to Reading and Speech Perception Skills in Children with Dyslexia

Auditory Attention Is Linked to Reading and Speech Perception Skills in Children with Dyslexia

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Children with dyslexia often face challenges in reading fluency and speech perception, particularly in noisy environments. These difficulties are usually attributed to deficits in phonological processing, where children struggle to recognise and manipulate the sounds within words.

But recent research suggests that auditory attention – the ability to focus on specific sounds in a noisy setting – may also play a critical role in these cognitive tasks.

A recent study published in the journal Developmental Science provides new insights into how auditory attention might influence reading and speech perception skills in children, both with and without dyslexia. This EEG study involved 106 children aged 7 to 12, including both dyslexic and typically developing children, and aimed to explore the relationship between auditory attention and reading abilities under suboptimal listening conditions.

The study utilised non-speech auditory tasks where children were required to focus on specific streams of tones amidst competing noises, mimicking the challenges faced in everyday listening environments. The findings revealed that while children with dyslexia did not show significant group-level deficits in auditory attention compared to their typically developing peers, individual differences in auditory attention were strongly linked to their reading fluency and speech perception abilities. More precisely, those who performed better in the auditory attention tasks tended to have better reading and speech-in-noise perception skills.

Interestingly, the study found no significant differences in the neural indices of auditory attention, such as inter-trial phase coherence, between children with and without dyslexia. This suggests that the auditory attention deficits in dyslexic readers are not due to differences in the basic sensory processing of sounds but might be linked to higher-level cognitive processing or the integration of auditory information.

This research highlights the importance of considering auditory attention mechanisms when diagnosing and treating reading disorders like dyslexia. It points to the potential benefits of auditory training programmes that help children improve their ability to focus on relevant auditory information, which could in turn enhance their reading skills and ability to understand speech in noisy environments.

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