Dyslexia, distraction and ambient noise

The role of hearing in reading disabilities and delays

  • Marcia Jenneth Epstein


Although hearing is the ‘second sense’ in our species, taking up a smaller proportion of cerebral real estate than vision, such territorial concepts are not accurate maps. Findings from databases in neurology and psychology indicate that accurate auditory processing is crucial to successful acquisition of skills in both reading and writing. Thus, sensory perception may be less easily divided and categorised than we have been led to believe by the traditional model of five discrete senses.

Reading, typically regarded as a visual activity, has an auditory foundation. The process of learning to read involves sub-vocalising, sounding out phonemes and words internally in association with the auditory memory, in a reprocessing of the phoneme formation skills practised by the very young child learning to speak. Delays in auditory processing, which are often caused by persistent ambient noise, can inhibit the grouping of written words with similar sounds, as in rhymes and assonance, into recognised patterns. This in turn inhibits recognition of correspondences between letter sequences and word sounds (Bradley & Bryant, 1978). Delayed recognition inhibits fluency in reading, both silently and aloud, and can be a significant cause of dyslexia. While noise occurring in classrooms has been extensively studied for its effects on learning, little is known about the effects of ambient noise in homes: Further study is needed.


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How to Cite
Epstein, M. (2019). Dyslexia, distraction and ambient noise. SoundEffects - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience, 8(1), 20-32. Retrieved from https://www.soundeffects.dk/article/view/115024