Many children and adults with auditory processing problems find it really difficult to be able to listen when there is any background noise in the environment. This basic auditory skill is important as we need to be able to concentrate on the ‘stream’ of sound to which we are paying attention whilst inhibiting sound which is not relevant. This is known as auditory figure ground and is a comment often heard from parents who say their child cannot pay attention and learn in the classroom but is fine on a one-to-one basis at home or in a quiet room.
Our ability to localize sound is a product of having two ears, assuming they are both within normal hearing limits. Just as both our eyes need to work together to give us three-dimensional vision and depth perception, our ears working together give us three-dimensional hearing in the auditory domain; differences in volume and timing account for much of this ability.
If you imagine talking to someone from their right side, your voice will reach their right ear slightly earlier than the left, about 5 milliseconds in fact. This is simply due to the fact that the left ear is further away! Also, due to the shadowing effect of your head, their voice will reach the left ear at a slightly lower volume. These tiny differences in volume and timing are how our brain is able to work out where a sound is coming from.
It is worth remembering that sound is your most basic sense for survival. Sound works in the dark, through walls and gives you a full 360° awareness of your environment and any dangers. This means that poor sound localization skills often mean increased stress levels and a heavier load on the visual system to compensate for the auditory deficit. You may see that children and adults with poor sound localization skills will choose to sit at the back of rooms, or against a wall, where subconsciously they are safe; nothing can be a danger from behind. Of course, there are often not immediate dangers in today’s world but our nervous system still constantly monitors the environment via our senses to ensure we are safe first and foremost.
Being able to assess sound localization is important for any children or adults who have high stress levels and always seem on alert. Also, children with reading, listening and concentration problems may have poor sound localization due to challenges with processing the timing, volume and frequency of auditory signals.
TAVS, the Test of Auditory and Visual Skills is quickly able to assess the lateralization abilities in 3 minutes. Along with the screening of temporal processing, pitch perception, beat competency and many other auditory and visual areas, it is an important tool for assessing the sensory capabilities of anyone you work with.
If you are a professional in the field and would like to learn more training to become qualified in the administration of TAVS please click here or call Advanced Brain Technologies at 801.622.5676