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Auditory Processing (Verbal Memory)

The majority of people with dyslexia show problems with short-term verbal memory and experience significant difficulties in auditory processing (not all children have this difficulty).

If children don’t seem to be able to retain spoken information, it is important to get a hearing test to make sure there is no physical problem with them being able to hear.


What is it?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the American Academy of Audiology define auditory processing difficulty as difficulties in the processing of auditory information in the central nervous system (CNS) as demonstrated by poor performance in one or more of the following skills:
Sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; and auditory pattern recognition.

What does that mean?

It generally means the student will struggle with all or some of these skills:

Focussing on the important sounds in a noisy room.
Remembering what they have heard.
Remembering the order of sounds and words.
Noticing, comparing, and distinguishing between separate sounds.

What are the difficulties?

It is important to understand the types of challenges these students will face throughout the day.

Repeating instructions

Auditory processing difficulty will cause general problems with listening.
Look out for students who always ask for instructions to be repeated and cannot seem to remember even a short list of spoken instructions.



Verbal sequential memory

Do not expect spoken information to be remembered.
Look out for students who have a poor recall of times tables, months of the year and the alphabet.
Other problems linked to a poor auditory memory can be a difficulty in spelling because they can’t remember the sequence of the letter sounds. Sounding out a sequence of phonemes and blending them will be difficult.

Can’t concentrate

A difficulty staying focused on auditory information being given will mean people with dyslexia may not be able to follow or concentrate on a verbally driven class. Look out for children who are shifting their attention to and from tasks that demand listening and organising vs. reading and copying.


Distracted by background noise

People with auditory processing difficulty are likely to have problems picking out important sounds from background noise. This will cause a difficulty hearing the teacher in noisy situations.


Note taking

They struggle to take notes when information is presented orally and at a rapid pace.

Sound discrimination

Difficulty distinguishing different sounds in words (auditory discrimination) e.g. “e” and “i” or similar sounding words e.g. “seventy” and “seventeen”


Thinking of the right word/name and attaching names to places or people is difficult. There is often difficulty thinking of the right word.

Mixing up syllables

Confusing the order of the sounds in multi-syllable words, e.g. “sundenly” “shuspicious”

Helpful Strategies

Do not rely on auditory teaching methods. Reading aloud and listening are not effective methods of learning for these children. Where auditory channels are weak, teach using visual and kinesthetic (movement and feel) approaches. Spelling rules are auditory and therefore likely to be less effective, but this can be offset by linking visual clues and actions to the strategies. Phonics programs that do not use visual strategies are likely to be ineffective.
1. Give the student one task at a time and talk at a slow pace.
2. Practice rhyming and segmenting words into syllables.
3.. Link a funny picture to the word or letters you are trying to remember.
4. Provide seating near audio source.