May 31, 2005

Is dyslexia a hearing problem?

A new study suggests that dyslexia originates in difficulty distinguishing the spoken word from surrounding noise, a problem that then carries over into reading.

17 comments:

dick said...

An interesting theory but I wonder just how true it is. I have a major problem with tintinnabulation. I have a constant buzzing noise like crickets and various other noises which does not stop. I have had absolutely no problem with dyslexia whatsoever. I wonder whether the correlation holds true or how they explain my situation. It is almost a syllogism if it holds up at all. At the same time I have a very good friend who does have dyslexia and she has no noise problem with her hearing. Is this supposed to be a finding or is this just a postulation that may end up as more than a theory.

Ann Althouse said...

Dick: I can't really tell how the study was done from the article, but the problem is with how the brain processes sound, for a child before he learns to read. The child learns to hear words in a different way, then doesn't relate properly to the written word, because it's so dissimilar to the language learned through speech.

DirtCrashr said...

They say Autism consists in part of a superabundance of external stimuli that are difficult or impossible for the sufferer to distinguish.
I'm just saying that because it sounds like they're saying Dyslexia to be a cognitive-process issue along those or similar lines.
Tinnitus usually occurs later in life as a result of exposures: to wind-noise, industrial noise, as well as to rock-concerts.
It seems to me that if noise is a cognitively divisive issue early-on, conceivably it could lead to the dyslexic condition, and perhaps as the condition is overcome or mastered later in life through more precise listening, the noise-component might become ignored or otherwise managed.
I have an adult dyslexic friend who's kinda deaf, or at least he tends to talk pretty loud. ;-) I also have tinnitus from riding fast motorcycles without good hearing protection, use those ear-plugs! Cops often get it occupationally, from driving around with the window down in order to listen for things.

leeontheroad said...

"It seems to me that if noise is a cognitively divisive issue early-on, conceivably it could lead to the dyslexic condition, and perhaps as the condition is overcome or mastered later in life through more precise listening, the noise-component might become ignored or otherwise managed."

Interesting theory, crashr, as it accords with my experience of a) "learning through" being mildly dyslexic; and b) feeling "crazed" in certain overstimulating environments, such that I basically "hate" shopping malls and avoid most concerts. The only solution tends to be to "shut down," in a way. My poor daughter, who loved the mall, could tell that when my eyes were glazing over, it was time to go home. I now shop on the 'net for most things.

In any case, given the differences in the way we dyslexics experience our perceptual differences-- that is, for some it's a disability and for others eventually more an annoyance-- I am interested in following up on the research. I suspect that in the same way various syndromes were once bunched together as "autism" or the way Bipolar Disorder is now understood to have two forms, the nuerological components of the broad category of dyslexia will become better understood. Hopefully, arising from that will be new teaching and learning methods.

DNR Mom said...

So how do we explain math dyslexia? Dr. Robert Nash, emeritus professor at UW-Oshkosh, and founder of "Project Success" for dyslexic but bright college students, claimed dyslexia was any difficulty with language or symbols. In other words, it's any problem with the entire lexicon, including math. Hurry with a reply, please, so I can enlighten my dyslexic lawyer son and UW-Msn 2L dyslexic daughter.

Be said...

Interesting 'teaser' of an article. My boyfriend's dyslexic and I've noted in talking to him that he often garbles things he hears, as well. Often I've wondered if the language processing issue were more global than just having difficulty mixing up symbols. Sometimes in my less charitable moments, I've wondered if he was just tuning me out.

My younger brother, roommate and roommate's brother are all dyslexic as well, but they don't seem to have the same issues with spoken language.

Myself, I'd been (mis?)diagnosed as mildly autistic in elementary school - I don't know that that's necessarily the case, but I do know that if there is too much noise/stimulation going on around me (I work in a very loud, hectic environment) I will shut down completely from time to time or focus on the wrong things (hearing always trumping visual - so need silence when working). I don't have any problems processing spoken language as far as I know (though am partially deaf in one ear), and I'm very conscious about that.

DirtCrashr said...

Math dyslexia, that's interesting!! My math sucks but I always thought it was because I got switched from the old style of learning math to the SMSG "New Math" which broke down all continuity into nonsense.
After that switcheroo I got put into the C-Lane group of math-dummies from 7th grade on, and my final math-attempts was to fail Pre-Calculus (twice) in college.
At one point as a kid I could work numbers pretty well, and then they changed 'em and it weren't much more than a different kind of alphabet - but one that didn't form words or sentences either. Medieval German was easier and made sense at least.

leeontheroad said...

"Math dyslexia" is exactly about the lexixon of math. It's not much a stretch to say "it's all Grek to me," given the symbology. However, it needn't be a barrier to learning, even though it can be frustrating, as it was for me. I've had no trouble with Precalc or Statistics at an advanced level. I do hate it when folks flash PowerPoint slides for, say, 1 minute while discussing their interpretation of results. However, that's a bit maddening for most people; and it's much better to give one's audience copies of the slides or, at least, the data!

henny said...

I'm mildly dyslexic and I'm glad others are speaking of math dyslexia! That was even more frustrating for me than reading or writing, because with numbers it's really hard to tell if you are reading or writing them incorrectly, vs. words. To deal with it I cut out little windows so that I could look at numbers without the distraction of the rest of the page.

At any rate, sound.... is this why I hate shopping malls, love small shops, hate loud music, and love silence?

dick said...

As I said earlier I am not dyslexic at all. I however do have problems with an imbalance in hearing (20% loss in 1 ear and 60% in the other) and I hate shopping malls as well. I think it is because I have problems in judging the location of the sounds and it drives me nuts because it seems as if they are coming from all around me. I also hate loud music and really do prefer silence.

As to my tintinnabulation I have had it for as long as I can remember. I just have to try to hear through it.

For the dyslexic, do you dislike big parties as well? I find that if I am in a big crowd I just want to go to the outside and stay there. Mingling is not in the cards because I get mixed up in the conversations coming from sveral different directions at once. I think I should just become a hermit and get it over with.

leeontheroad said...

dick, yes, I simply cannot follow cross conversation. I only go to parties where "party" is not a verb and that tends to be, therefore, things I have a social obligation to attend. On the flip side, we have a large annual summer gathering, where, as hostess, I can focus on the serving of food and drink and such-- much easier, actually. Do you eschew hearing aids? Folks I know often turn them down or off, because of the signal to noise ratio, even with improved models.

henny, GREAT idea to create a "window" for reading a math textbook!

DNR Mom said...

Dick: Don't be so sure you're "not dyslexic at all." My theory? Everyone's dyslexic, i.e., has learning differences in the form of intellectual strengths and weaknesses. If, for example, you wish to point to some nuclear physisist as the paragon of non-dyslexia,(!) then how come we all aren't nuclear physicists?

For some reason no federal grant dollars have knocked on my door to urge me to prove this theory. Wonder why?

Henny: Cutting windows to block distraction when you're doing math is called "compensating" for your problem. Fer sure you compensate appropriately. Also highly creatively.

I believe we all do this in mundane forms, whether it's "Thirty days hath September," the mnemomic of "HOMES" for the names of the Great Lakes, whatever.

So is there anyone out there confident he/she is not at all dyslexic? Please debate me. It should be easy, since the last standardized test I took pronounced me with an IQ of 70.

leeontheroad said...

DNR Mom, are you aware of the theory that Einstein was dyslexic?

and to what "standardized test" do you refer? Stanford-Binet or the Weschler? The former is in a new edition, due to stat problems with the older edition-- not that most folks want to line up to be tested!

Meanwhile, of ocurse, there's the well know effect of learning differences on these scores. And the standard ADA criteria for higher ed still means one needs to test in the "normal range" to meet the legal criteria for learning disability accomodation. It's therefore all the more important to ensure a proper testing environment.

Also, while I have no desire to argue with you, my experience is exactly the opposite of "everyone's dyslexic." The term has no useful nothing if it merely describes human variation.

chuck_b said...

I thought this was old news. Children who have frequent ear infections during their early years are prone to developing lysdexia. Couldn't resist. Seriously tho'... I learned this in college in the mid-80s.

DNR Mom said...

leeontheroad: Sure I knew about Einstein. He and myriad others have given me hope that we dyslexics can become contributors to humanity.

As for "human variation" in learning styles, could the term "learning differences" be synonymous?

Your allusion to standardized tests raises the best question. Yes or no, would Einstein have scored too high to receive ADA accommodations?

It happens. A genius (but dyslexic) friend was denied being a research subject in a UW Psychology Department study because, try as she might, she couldn't get her score down to "average intelligence" on the Wechsler.

leeontheroad said...

dnrmom, re: "contributors to humanity." I never doubted it; I think it's too bad you need to be "given hope." Goodbye, troll.

yes789 said...

Shake it out and don't fall asleep into medical conventions.
Dyslexia is in the sound of one hand clapping. It's not about subject matter. Imagine all math and writing and sounds laid out on the surface of the ocean. Now come the waves. Dyslexia is the waves, making all subjects twist and curl on themselves. The subject matter doesn't know it's on waves. They're invisible to it, just as the brain can't feel pain, but we can.