Exploring the role of auditory analysis in atypical compared to typical language development

Hear Res. 2014 Feb;308(100):129-40. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2013.09.015. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


The relationship between auditory processing and language skills has been debated for decades. Previous findings have been inconsistent, both in typically developing and impaired subjects, including those with dyslexia or specific language impairment. Whether correlations between auditory and language skills are consistent between different populations has hardly been addressed at all. The present work presents an exploratory approach of testing for patterns of correlations in a range of measures of auditory processing. In a recent study, we reported findings from a large cohort of eleven-year olds on a range of auditory measures and the data supported a specific role for the processing of short sequences in pitch and time in typical language development. Here we tested whether a group of individuals with dyslexic traits (DT group; n = 28) from the same year group would show the same pattern of correlations between auditory and language skills as the typically developing group (TD group; n = 173). Regarding the raw scores, the DT group showed a significantly poorer performance on the language but not the auditory measures, including measures of pitch, time and rhythm, and timbre (modulation). In terms of correlations, there was a tendency to decrease in correlations between short-sequence processing and language skills, contrasted by a significant increase in correlation for basic, single-sound processing, in particular in the domain of modulation. The data support the notion that the fundamental relationship between auditory and language skills might differ in atypical compared to typical language development, with the implication that merging data or drawing inference between populations might be problematic. Further examination of the relationship between both basic sound feature analysis and music-like sound analysis and language skills in impaired populations might allow the development of appropriate training strategies. These might include types of musical training to augment language skills via their common bases in sound sequence analysis.

Keywords: DT; Dyslexic traits; TD; Typically developing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Auditory Perception
  • Child
  • Dyslexia / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Hearing Tests
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pitch Perception
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reading
  • Speech Perception
  • Time Perception