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The Importance of Hearing in Learning

Hearing in Learning

Hearing occupies a very important place in learning. ”Hearing is not the same as listening.”

Thanks to our sense of hearing we learn to:

  • Speak and recognize sounds in our environment.
  • Understand through spoken language.
  • Locate sounds and adjust their intensity.
  • Filter through noises that bother us when we need to concentrate.
  • Listen at an appropriate volume.
  • Pronounce certain phonemes.
  • Communicate in new languages.

This is closely linked to the process of learning to read and write among other aspects that require auditory attention. All of this is basic to establish social relationships and a good emotional state.

However, hearing well does not mean processing information well. We can have a wonderful ability to hear while also having a poor quality of auditory processing, this is the difference between hearing and listening.  As a result, it is important to review the sharpness of hearing as well as the quality of auditory processing. Normally it is evaluated with a simple ‘‘pure tone audiometry,” which is the key hearing test used to identify hearing thresholds.

The auditory functions that determine good processing are the following:

  • Auditory connection.
  • Auditory discrimination.
  • Locating the source of a sound.
  • Auditory lateralization.
  • Auditory comprehension.
  • An increase of the sound we perceive (volume). Auditory hypersensitivity/hyposensitivity.
  • Auditory filter:  selective attention to different auditory stimuli than others, (for example, speaking to someone while there is a loud noise in the background or speaking in a club where the music is very loud).

A child who does not properly acquire these functions during development could present some of the following symptoms. These are linked with neuro-psychological immaturity or difficulty with sensory integration, both of which influence their learning and behavior.

Common symptoms of auditory processing difficulty:

  • Attention and concentration problems. Short attention spans. Getting tired quickly from the amount of effort it takes them to listen makes them able to disconnect more easily than other children. This is often mistaken for ADHD when, on occasion, it is only a difficulty with auditory filtering or hearing hypersensitivity.
  • They have their ”head in the clouds” and frequently disconnect when they have to make a large effort to determine what is being asked.
  • Answer with a delay when hearing directions. It may take more time to process what is said to them and formulate a response.
  • They cover their ears or are easily irritated when it is clearly auditory hypersensitivity (hearing above the hearing threshold). Certain noises bother them, like riding on a bus or being in a room with multiple children.
  • Avoid noisy places. Too much noise that they cannot filter can sometimes be bothersome or even painful.
  • They need things repeated multiple times. On occasion, they do not understand what is said at first and may say ”What?” frequently.
  • Delay in the acquisition of language or speaking.
  • Clarity problems with certain phonemes. Sometimes, they can have difficulties discriminating similar phonemes and may pronounce words with this change in phoneme, (”wabbit” for ”rabbit”; ”pssghetti” for ”spaghetti”).
  • Problems with literacy acquisition.
  • Limited auditory memory. Which can impact the number of steps they can remember when given instructions.
  • Monotone or flat voice.
  • There are certain words that they do not understand or hear well.
  • Misinterpretation of what is said to them.

A child with some of these symptoms could seem clueless, easily distracted, or have difficulties following instructions in class. They could pronounce a phoneme wrong, take time to respond, and avoid recess or the rest of the class when they become rowdy. They could confuse words and become easily overwhelmed because they are listening to everything which can make them appear restless or short-tempered.

It can also happen that all these symptoms go unnoticed because, clinically, the child is healthy. On occasion, they are confused with attention problems or immaturity when the cause is really sensory. It is recommended to have a pure tone audiometry hearing test during the early school years in order to have a better idea about a child’s hearing.

Here at Smartick, we support all of our children to improve their reading and listening comprehension, and with our exercises, we train different attention and comprehension strategies which are adapted to the needs of each student. We would like to remind you that exercises for the youngest students, those who still do not know how to read, have been recorded and can be played through speakers. Thus, the activities can be completed totally on their own without help from an older family member.

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