Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hearing the Teacher's Voice Clearly above the Noise

Children are genetically predisposed to tune on the voice of their mothers, fathers and key people in their lives. become The majority of school-aged children can quickly focus in on the voice of a teacher, even amid the cacophony of the classroom.

This is all thanks to a smart brain that automatically focuses on relevant, predictable and repeating auditory information, according to new scientific research.

Unfotunately, for children who suffer from developmental dyslexia, the teacher's voice may get lost in the background noise of banging lockers, whispering children, playground screams and scraping chairs.

Developmental Dyslexia
Developmental dyslexia is described as a neurological disorder affecting reading and spelling skills and this is detected in 5 to 10 percent of school aged children. Recent scientific studies suggest that children with this condition have difficulties separating important and relevant auditory information from competing background noise.

Research not only confirms those findings but also presents biological evidence that children who report problems hearing speech mixed in with other noise, also suffer from a measurable neural impairment that adversely affects their ability to make use of regularities in the sound environment.

Pattern Recognition
The ability to detect patterns in speech and to sharpen or fine-tune into these repeating elements, is crucial to hearing speech in the presence of other noise because it allows for superior 'selection' or 'tagging' of voice pitch. This is a vital component when picking out a particular voice within background noise.

Tuning in
The brain has a remarkable ability to tune into select or relevant aspects in the soundscape and this is carried out by an adaptive auditory system that continuously changes its activity based on the demands of context. In short the ear is scanning the sounds it hears for familiar and frequencies and repeated tones. This can be a voice talking or a baby crying but it also works for music.

Recent research
In recent research, good and poor readers were asked to watch a video while the speech sound "da" was presented to them through an earphone in two different sessions, during which the brain's response to these sounds was continuously measured.

In the first session, "da" was repeated over and over and over again (in what the researchers call a repetitive context). In the second, "da" was presented randomly amid other speech sounds (in what the researchers call a variable context). In an additional session, the researchers performed behavioural tests in which the children were asked to repeat sentences that were presented to them amid increasing degrees of noise.

"Even though the children's attention was focused on a movie, the auditory system of the good readers 'tuned in' to the repeatedly presented speech sound context and sharpened the sound's encoding.

Repetition encoding
In contrast, poor readers did not show an improvement in encoding with repetition," said Chandrasekaran, lead author of the study. "We also found that children who had an adaptive auditory system performed better on the behavioural tests that required them to perceive speech in noisy backgrounds."

Helping Poor Readers
The study suggests that in addition to conventional reading and spelling based interventions, poor readers who have difficulties processing information in noisy backgrounds could benefit from the employment of relatively simple strategies. Try placing the child in front of the teacher or using wireless technologies to enhance the sound of a teacher's voice for an individual student.
Enhanced Brain Activity
Interestingly, the researchers found that children who suffer from dyslexia showed enhanced brain activity in the variable condition. This may enable these children to represent their sensory environment in a broader and arguably more creative manner, although at the cost of the ability to exclude irrelevant signals i.e. noise.

It is conceivable that the brain of the children who suffer from Dyslexia, is intuitively trying to interact with all the noises and happenings in the room, which under more controlled and quieter circumstances, would allow the child to be more creative, expressive and innovative.

Separating Noise
"The study brings us closer to understanding sensory processing in children who experience difficulty excluding irrelevant noise. It provides an objective index that can help in the assessment of children with reading problems," Kraus says.

For nearly two decades, Kraus has been trying to determine why some children with good hearing have difficulties learning to read and spell while others do not. Early in her work, because the deficits she was exploring related to the complex processes of reading and writing, Kraus studied how the cortex encoded sounds.

The Cortex is the part of the brain mainly responsible for conscious thinking.

There is a close link between hearing, speaking and reading. It is important to note that the children tested had good hearing, i.e. they are examined by a professional and are able to hear an acceptable range of frequencies. It is nonsense to test children with hearing difficulties and assess them as having learning issues.

Make sure there are no physical conditions that are left undetected and undiagnosed, before looking for more complex answers.

If you have concenrs about any of these issues contact a qualified consultant and you can also conatct me if you have any comments or questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment