By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 10:16 AM on 12th November 2009

When teachers call for quiet in class there is a very good reason – children with dyslexia find it very difficult to tune out background noise.

The new findings suggest the condition is an auditory as well as a reading problem and could lead to new ways of identifying sufferers.

It also suggests those afflicted should be placed at the front of the class or provided with wireless technologies to pick up information better.


Children with dyslexia should sit towards the front of the class as a study revealed they struggle to ‘tune out’ background noise

Researchers found children who were poor readers were worse at distinguishing repetitive and random sounds while watching a video than their more skilled peers.

Auditory neuroscientist Professor Nina Kraus said: ‘The study brings us closer to understanding sensory processing in children who experience difficulty excluding irrelevant noise.’

She said most schoolchildren can focus on the voice of a teacher amid the cacophony of the typical classroom as their brains automatically focuses on the relevant information. But for children with developmental dyslexia the teacher’s voice may get lost, according to the study published in Neuron.

Professor Kraus, of Northwestern University in Illinois, said: ‘The ability to sharpen or fine-tune repeating elements is crucial to hearing speech in noise because it allows for superior ‘tagging’ of voice pitch – an important cue in picking out a particular voice within background noise.’

In the study 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 was continuously measured.

The British Dyslexia Association said new research showing dyslexia affects hearing as well as reading could help teachers improve the education of children affected by the condition.

Dr Kate Saunders, education and policy director of the charity, said: ‘The research helps to build an understanding of the difficulties experienced by many dyslexic individuals in terms of effective processing of phonological, auditory material.

‘Teachers should be made aware of these differences in order to plan how best to help these children.’

She added: ‘It is interesting to note that the findings suggest that the way dyslexics process auditory material may also enable them “to represent their sensory environment in a broader and arguably more creative manner”.

‘Research studies such as this all offer a piece of the jigsaw puzzle in helping to understand the complex mix of difficulties and potential strengths that can affect dyslexic individuals.’