Differential hearing difficulties cause kids to fall behind at school

April 5, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Some children who have trouble learning in the classroom have difficulty switching their listening attention and so have trouble following a conversation from one talker to the next, according to a University of Sydney study published online in Nature's Scientific Reports.

The PhD study led by Imran Dhamani was a collaboration between the University's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and Macquarie University's Audiology Section, funded by the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre.

The study looked at three groups of participants, 12 adults, 12 normal and 12 children with persistent listening difficulties in , but no diagnosis of a hearing disorder or other attentional disorder.

Paper co-author Associate Professor Simon Carlile said the researchers were determined to find out why some children, with otherwise normal hearing, fell behind in the classroom.

"A wide battery of indicated that children who complained of listening difficulties had otherwise normal hearing sensitivity and skills," he said.

In our study, we showed that these children were markedly slower to switch their attention compared to their age-matched peers. In a noisy conversation with many participants, this means that these children were having trouble following a conversation as it moved from one talker to the next, making it difficult for them to get the of what was being said."

"A deficit in the ability to switch attention across multiple talkers now provides the basis for this otherwise hidden listening disability, especially in noisy environments involving multiple talkers, such as classrooms.

"What we have done is provide a tool to diagnose a particular symptom that indicates an underlying problem that has been undiagnosed to date."

Co-author, Macquarie University and Senior Lecturer, Dr Mridula Sharma said the researchers had discovered the answer to an important question, so far not investigated in this population.

"Children had been brought to audiologists by either their parents or teachers, who had done a whole heap of tests on them, only to not be able to diagnose the problem.

Dr Sharma said that, prior to the study, only a third of the children presenting at the audiology clinic at Macquarie University had gone on to be diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).

"But two thirds of these children were being sent back home without a diagnosis on what the problem was. We knew there was something there, we just hadn't worked out the right question to ask. We now have a real handle on what the problem is."

Associate Professor Carlile said the group are now developing a test that can be easily used by audiologists and GPs in their consulting rooms.

"Often we see that medical diagnosis is based on a clinical presentation, and to date, neither the audiologists nor the GPs have had the question to ask of these kids having trouble at school," he said.

"A symptom can have many causes. And a clinical presentation can only be judged on the symptom.

"Some forms of attentional disorders (such as ADHD) can be treated with medications, we don't know yet whether that is appropriate here. And some forms of these attentional disorders can be treated with cognitive and other behavioural or training therapies, where you are helping people latch onto the appropriate cues to help manage these conditions.

"We are now working on developing a simple clinical test to diagnose this differential condition, and aim to make it available to audiologists."

Explore further: Noisy classroom simulation aids comprehension in hearing-impaired children

Related Stories

Noisy classroom simulation aids comprehension in hearing-impaired children

February 11, 2013
Children with hearing loss struggle to hear in noisy school classrooms, even with the help of hearing aids and other devices to amplify their teacher's voice. Training the brain to filter out background noise and thus understand ...

Assisted listening devices benefit children with dyslexia

September 5, 2012
(HealthDay)—For children with dyslexia, the use of assistive listening devices (classroom frequency modulation [FM] systems) reduces auditory processing variability, with concomitant improvements in reading and phonological ...

Children with auditory processing disorder may now have more treatment options, research shows

February 20, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Several Kansas State University faculty members are helping children with auditory processing disorder receive better treatment.

Does your hearing do the job?

August 10, 2011
How well do you need to hear in order to do your job, and how should your hearing be measured?

Recommended for you

Researchers crack the smile, describing three types by muscle movement

July 27, 2017
The smile may be the most common and flexible expression, used to reveal some emotions, cover others and manage social interactions that have kept communities secure and organized for millennia.

Even babies can tell who's the boss, UW research says

July 27, 2017
The charismatic colleague, the natural leader, the life of the party - all are personal qualities that adults recognize instinctively. These socially dominant types, according to repeated studies, also tend to accomplish ...

Ketamine for depression encouraging, but questions remain around long-term use

July 27, 2017
A world-first systematic review into the safety of ketamine as a treatment for depression, published in the prestigious Lancet Psychiatry, shows the risks of long-term ketamine treatment remain unclear.

DREAMers at greater risk for mental health distress

July 27, 2017
Immigrants who came to the United States illegally as small children and who meet the requirements of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, more commonly known as DREAMers, are at risk for mental health ...

Negativity, be gone—new online tool can retrain your brain

July 27, 2017
Anxiety and depression can have devastating effects on people's lives. In some cases, the mental disorders lead to isolation, poverty and poor physical health, things that often cascade to future generations.

Research aims to shape more precise treatments for depression in women

July 27, 2017
Among women in the United States, depression is at epidemic levels: Approximately 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year, and more than 12 percent of women can expect to experience depression ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.