Everything about Auditory Dyslexia: Signs, Causes and Support

auditory dyslexia

Auditory Dyslexia, also referred to as auditory processing dyslexia or disorder (APD) is a specific type of dyslexia that affects a person’s ability to process and understand spoken language. Auditory dyslexia most specifically causes difficulties with phonological awareness and phonemic processing, which are crucial for reading and writing. It differs from the more usual form of dyslexia, which primarily affects reading and spelling. 

Auditory dyslexia is not caused by hearing loss and people with auditory dyslexia typically have normal hearing abilities. While some may ask, “Does dyslexia affect hearing?” in the case of auditory dyslexia, it’s more about how the brain processes auditory information rather than actual hearing capability. It is crucial that parents and caregivers understand which type of dyslexia their child has so they are able to access services appropriate for their child. Early and individualized interventions can be very beneficial in improving language and reading skills. 

What is Auditory Dyslexia?

Auditory Dyslexia, also known as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), is a specific subtype of dyslexia that primarily affects an individual’s ability to process and understand spoken language. It differs from the more common form of dyslexia, which primarily affects reading and spelling. Here are the key differences and major auditory dyslexia symptoms:

Auditory Dyslexia:

  • Difficulty recognizing and distinguishing speech sounds.
  • Difficulty in following complex spoken instructions.
  • Struggles with processing and understanding fast speech.
  • Poor listening skills in noisy environments.
  • Difficulty remembering and recalling spoken information.

Usual Dyslexia (Reading and Spelling Dyslexia):

  • Difficulty with decoding words, recognizing sight words, and phonemic awareness.
  • Poor reading fluency and comprehension.
  • Frequent spelling errors.
  • Reversal of letters or words.
  • Slow reading.

Signs of Auditory Dyslexia

Auditory dyslexia can present through various signs and symptoms related to difficulties in processing spoken language. Common signs and symptoms of auditory dyslexia can include:

Difficulty Discriminating Speech Sounds

Individuals with auditory dyslexia often struggle to distinguish between similar speech sounds. For example, they may have difficulty discriminating between words like “cat” and “hat.” This difficulty in discerning sounds within words can impact comprehension, leading to challenges in following verbal instructions or conversations, and may also affect their ability to recognize rhyming patterns or syllable stress in words.

Problems with Auditory Memory

Auditory dyslexia can lead to challenges in remembering and recalling spoken information. People may forget information or instructions soon after hearing them. This can cause frustration among teachers and caregivers as well as the child. 

Misunderstanding What Others Say

It is common for someone with auditory dyslexia to mis-hear what others say during conversation or when listening to instructions. For example, an individual with auditory dyslexia may hear the word “lightbulb” as “white bud”, which would cause confusion. 

Scrambling Multisyllabic Words

Multisyllabic words (words with multiple syllables such as cantaloupe or machinery) can be tricky for people with auditory dyslexia. They are likely to have difficulty processing the sounds of the word in order, which then translates into difficulty pronouncing the word. A person with auditory dyslexia may say the word “telephone” like “tefelone.”

Difficulty Pronouncing Ls, Rs, and Ths

Certain speech sounds can be more difficult for people with auditory dyslexia. In particular, the “L”, “R”, and “Th” sounds can be harder than others. For this reason, a person may say “wabbit” for “rabbit” or “fumb” for “thumb.”


Because people with auditory dyslexia often hear sounds in the wrong order, or mis-hear certain sounds in words, they are also more likely to mispronounce words. Someone with auditory dyslexia may say “aminal” for “animal” or “wion” for “lion.”

Slow Reading and Decoding

Auditory dyslexia does not specifically cause difficulty with letter or word identification, but it can still cause difficulty reading. Auditory dyslexia can affect how children learn letter sounds or how the sequence sounds when learning to decode words. This can significantly slow down their reading speech and lower their accuracy. 

Attention and Listening Difficulties

Maintaining focus and listening attentively can be challenging, especially in noisy environments. Because people with auditory dyslexia have trouble discriminating and processing language, competing background noise can make this even more challenging. People may become easily distracted during conversations or make off-topic comments. 

Difficulty Following Complex Verbal Instructions

People with auditory dyslexia often have trouble understanding and following through with multi-step directions. When given a direction such as “Please get your shoes on, find your jacket, and go to the car,” a person may complete steps in the wrong order, get the wrong items, or miss steps completely. 

Causes of Auditory Dyslexia

The exact cause of auditory dyslexia is not fully understood. It is a complex condition with multiple contributing factors. There are several theories for its potential cause, including:

Genetic Factors

There is evidence to suggest that genetics may play a role in the development of auditory dyslexia. People with a family history of auditory dyslexia are more likely to develop it as well. Additionally, there have been twin studies documenting a higher co-occurrence of auditory dyslexia in identical twins, further supporting a genetic influence. 

Neurobiological Factors

Differences in brain structure and function, particularly in areas related to language such as the temporal and parietal lobes, may contribute to the development of auditory dyslexia. Their neurobiological factors are likely present from birth or early childhood. 

Auditory Processing Differences

Auditory dyslexia is often linked to differences in auditory processing and speech discrimination. These difficulties may be related to atypical functioning in the auditory processing centers of the brain. For example, atypical processing of the auditory system can affect a person’s ability to understand and decode spoken language, and this processing can be studied using electroencephalography (EEG).

Environmental Factors

Early exposure to a language-rich environment is important for developing speech and language skills. Lack of exposure to language-rich experiences in childhood could contribute to the development of auditory dyslexia.

Developmental Factors

There is some research to suggest that developmental delays in speech and language processing skills early in childhood could lead to auditory dyslexia. Additionally, auditory dyslexia is more likely to co-occur with certain developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder.

Poor Phonological Awareness

When people have poor phonological awareness (the ability to decode and manipulate speech sounds) they are at an increased risk for developing auditory dyslexia. They may struggle with the foundational skills needed for language processing, which can contribute to the development of auditory dyslexia.

Strategies for Auditory Dyslexia

There are several strategies, interventions, and accommodations that can be used to help children with auditory dyslexia. Many of these interventions aim to improve a person’s ability to process and understand spoken language, especially in the context of reading and spelling. Some of these strategies include:

Phonological Awareness Training

Phonological awareness training focuses on developing a child’s ability to recognize and manipulate phonemes (single units of sound). Phonological awareness skills include things such as rhyming, blending words, segmenting words, and counting out sounds and syllables. Activities for this intervention focus on building these phonological skills to enhance reading and spelling. Some examples of this training include:

  • Sound discrimination training: identifying which words rhyme from a set or discriminating between similar sounding words such as “bat” and “mat.”
  • Phonetics instruction: explicit training of letter-sound correspondence.
  • Syllable segmentation: counting or segmenting syllables in words, such as by clapping out the syllables. 
  • Blending or segmenting sounds: naming the different sounds in a word such as saying “b-a-t” for “bat,” or blending the word “m-oo-n” when the sounds are given separately. 

Auditory Discrimination Training

Similar to phonological awareness, auditory discrimination is also focused on phonemes. However, it works on discriminating between sounds and words, which can be challenging for children with auditory dyslexia. For example, a child may have difficulty hearing the difference between the words “white” and “light.” Improving auditory discrimination helps children recognize patterns in words more accurately. Training may include these components:

  • Identifying and recognizing sounds: Increasing awareness of which sounds a child may have difficulty discriminating.
  • Isolating sounds: Work on isolating target sounds in various word positions, such as “tell me the first sound in the word ‘ball’” or “what is the last sound in ‘grub’?”
  • Minimal pairs training: Hearing the difference between two similar sounding words such as “pat” and “bat” or “mad” and “mat”, as well as being able to pronounce the words correctly. 
  • Increasing complexity: As children master skills at earlier levels, increase the complexity. Start with single sounds, single syllables, 2-syllables, and so on.

Give Clear Instructions

Provide clear and concise instructions that are tailored to a child’s specific needs. This could mean offering step-by-step instructions, breaking down tasks into smaller parts, or highlighting key information in directions. Giving these clear instructions can improve a child’s ability to follow directions and can also help improve memory. 

Use Multisensory Methods

Using multisensory methods simply means using techniques that engage multiple senses simultaneously. For example, combining visual, tactile, and auditory modalities within reading activities by saying the sounds, seeing the letters, and having physical letters (or objects associated with that letter) to manipulate. Multisensory methods can engage comprehension of spoken language and also increase engagement.

Collaborate with Professionals

Children with auditory dyslexia are often served by many professionals such as a regular education teacher, special education teacher, speech-language pathologist, or reading specialist. Collaboration among all these professionals is crucial for designing and implementing effective intervention strategies.

Use Visual Supports

Visual supports, such as graphic organizers, pictures, or visual schedules can be helpful for aiding verbally presented information. If a child has difficulty following multi-step directions, an organizer that breaks down the instructions using pictures may be beneficial. 

Use Assistive Technology

Text-to-speech devices, speech recognition software, or personal FM systems can support reading and attention skills for children with auditory dyslexia. Forbrain is another assistive device that can be useful for students with auditory dyslexia by providing auditory feedback. These devices can relieve some of the challenges children with auditory dyslexia face in the classroom setting.

Who Diagnoses Auditory Dyslexia

Auditory dyslexia, or auditory processing disorder, is diagnosed by audiologists who specialize in the hearing mechanism. However, many other professionals such as educational psychologists, speech-language pathologists, regular or special educators, and pediatricians often play significant roles in screening or evaluating children before they receive a referral for testing. This helps ensure a child is appropriate for assessment by an audiologist and can help rule out other similar conditions.

Support for Auditory Dyslexia

For parents of children with auditory dyslexia, it’s essential to create a supportive environment that caters to their specific needs. Caregivers can consider offering support by providing distraction-free environments, using assistive technology, and maintaining close communication with the professionals serving their child. Other ways to offer support can include:

Multisensory Approaches

Dyslexic individuals often benefit from multisensory teaching methods. These approaches engage multiple senses, such as visual, auditory, and tactile, to reinforce learning. Caregivers can use materials and techniques that involve touch, movement, and various senses to help dyslexic learners understand and remember information better. For instance, using textured letters to trace while learning to read can improve outcomes.

Reduce Background Noise

Caregivers can reduce background noise by designating a quiet and dedicated study area for the child, free from distractions like television or noisy appliances. Using noise-canceling headphones or earplugs in noisy environments can be beneficial for minimizing distractions during learning. Additionally, adjusting daily routines to choose quieter times for tasks that require auditory focus can help create a more conducive learning environment for children with auditory dyslexia.

Speech-Language Therapy

Dyslexia often co-occurs with speech and language challenges. Speech and language therapy can address these issues, working on articulation, vocabulary development, and comprehension skills. Some speech-language pathologists also specialize in phonological processing and can help children improve these abilities as well.

Collaboration between Specialists

Effective support for dyslexic individuals often requires a collaborative effort among specialists, teachers, and parents. Caregivers should actively communicate with educators and specialists to ensure that the individual’s needs are met. This collaboration can involve developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 Plans to outline specific accommodations and strategies to help the student succeed in school.

Using Forbrain to Help with Dyslexia 

Forbrain is an auditory feedback device designed to help individuals, including children with auditory dyslexia, improve their auditory processing and language skills. Forbrain uses bone conduction to deliver audio feedback directly to the inner ear, allowing children to hear their own voice almost immediately. This auditory feedback loop can improve speech and language skills, enhance focus, improve reading and comprehension, and boost confidence in children with auditory dyslexia. While it should not be used as a standalone solution, Forbrain can be a very beneficial tool when used correctly. For more information on how Forbrain can help children with dyslexia, please see this page. 

Auditory Dyslexia FAQ

Does Auditory Dyslexia Affect Hearing?

Auditory dyslexia is not related to hearing loss. Individuals with auditory dyslexia typically have normal hearing. It is a specific learning disorder related to processing spoken language, not a hearing impairment.

Is Auditory Dyslexia the Same as Visual Dyslexia?

Visual dyslexia, which is more common, primarily affects reading and spelling and is related to difficulties with recognizing written words. Auditory dyslexia, on the other hand, is focused on difficulties in processing and understanding spoken language.

Can Auditory Dyslexia be Treated?

While there is no “cure” for auditory dyslexia, it can be managed and improved with interventions such as phonological awareness training, auditory discrimination exercises, multisensory reading programs, and individualized support. Early diagnosis and targeted interventions can significantly enhance language and reading skills.

Is Auditory Dyslexia Lifelong?

Auditory dyslexia can be a lifelong condition, but with early diagnosis and effective interventions, individuals can develop strategies and skills to manage their challenges and lead successful and fulfilling lives.

How Can I Support My Child with Auditory Dyslexia?

Parents and caregivers can provide a supportive and structured environment, advocate for their child’s needs at school, work with professionals specializing in dyslexia, and offer patience and encouragement. Additionally, creating a language-rich home environment and using assistive technologies can be helpful.

Final Words

Auditory dyslexia is a specific type of dyslexia affecting spoken language. It causes difficulty with spoken language processing, which can affect a child’s ability to learn to read and spell. While there is no known cause for auditory dyslexia, there are several effective intervention strategies and supports that can help your child improve their language comprehension. Understanding what type of dyslexia your child has is crucial for offering them the best support, intervention, and accommodation which will give them the tools and instruction they need to succeed. Parents, educators, and healthcare professionals play a vital role in the success of dyslexic students. By using the tips shared in this article, you can make a significant difference in these students’ lives.


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Natalie Fitzgerald

Natalie is a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and holds a Certificate of Clinical Competence from ASHA. She earned her Master's degree in speech and hearing sciences at the University of North Carolina. Natalie has worked with children of 1-21 years of age and has experience with a wide variety of speech and language disorders such as articulation and apraxia, fluency, expressive and receptive language, and AAC.