Auditory, Science

Following up from the Hearing Things article I’ve discovered Hyperacusis which is defined as

abnormal acuteness of hearing due to increased irritability of the sensory neural mechanism; characterized by intolerance for ordinary sound levels

Unlike hypersensitivity to low pitched hums this is hypersensitivity to all sounds making day to day life a misery. This report links 40% of autism cases with Hyperacusis. This paper links examines autisim, hyperacusis and Auditory Integration Training (AIT). More information available from the Hyperacusis Network.

Auditory, Commercial Dyslexia Centres & Treatments, Visual

Though I no longer consider myself dyslexic, a combination of occasional hearing problems, sensitivity to light and curiosity drove me down to London to take a full assessment at The Sound Learning Centre. As their name implies, the Centre uses sound therapy to treat children and adults with various learning problems. As well as sound they use light therapy and exercise programmess focusing on primitive reflexes. For more details of the treatments available, see The Sound Learning Centre Open Day.

On arrival I was immediately reminded of the friendly and relaxed nature of the staff that I had encountered on my previous visit to their open day. Pauline Allen, who runs the Centre with her husband Phil, handles the assessment process and the first part is filling out a number of questionnaires. A nice touch that showed the Centre are as used to adult clients as they are to children is that Pauline checked that I was happy filling in forms. I’ve been to a number of events run for dyslexics where the organisers hadn’t considered that dyslexics might not be comfortable with or even able to fill in a form. The questionnaires are geared up to being filled in by the parents as they collect information about the pregnancy, birth and early development of the patient. Not something the average adult can answer about themselves but this doesn’t matter to the assessment as much of this data is collected for research and background information.

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Auditory, Science

One of the most fascinating things I’ve found out running this web site is the large variance in what people can perceive. My own ears are hypersensitive to some noises and hypo-sensitive to others. My eyes are also more light sensitive than many other peoples. Its entirely possible that many of the problems of dyslexia, ADHD and conditions on the autistic spectrum are caused by the suffers having extreme over or under sensitivity to light, sound, touch, taste and smell. We all assume that other people perceive the world in the same way we do but this is not the case. If we can understand how the suffers’ interact the world we may be able to make sense of the suffers’ behavior. The child who throws a tantrum when having his hair cut may not just be acting up but be genuinely distressed by the feel of the scissors, the sound of the blades or the proximity of the hair dresser.
A great example of the huge spectrum of sensitivities is this report into the ‘Bristol Hum’. A number of people had reported a constant low pitch humming noise which was making their life a misery and led to the suicide of one person who was unable to cope with the constant noise. British Gas investigated, suspecting that it might be caused by its equipment. It found that in 80% of the people the source was hearing problems but 33 people were found to be genuinely hearing a hum which could be detected by sensitive electronic equipment. British Gas managed to track the source of one persons noise to resonance in its pipe work but the the rest were traced to a various sources such as industrial refrigerators up to 5 kilometers away.
So sounds that no else can hear were making life a misery for highly sensitive people up to 5km away and were bad enough to drive one person to suicide. What effect would these noises have on a small child?
More about the problem of background hums: The Hum including a brief snippet on ADHD and The Hum, Taos Hum Home page , Right to Quiet Society, UK Noise Association (they are against it).

Auditory, Science

At the Laboratory of Auditory Neurophysiology in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine they have been studying the effect of moderate but continuous noise on rats during the early stage of their development. They found that this distorted the rat’s tonotopic map. Crucially they found that the problem could be corrected after the rat had matured by exposing the rat to 7 kHz tones. This may point towards both a cause of some phonic dyslexia and why the Bernard Audio Integration Technique works.

The full article is available as a PDF.

Auditory, Music, Science

A recent study conducted by Glen Schellenberg at the Psychology Department of the University of Totonto has found that music lessons increase a child’s IQ but only by a small amount. Children were tested before and after a nine month spell being taught keyboards, singing, drama or as a control, nothing. Those learning the keyboard or singing increased their IQ by seven points where as those learning drama or nothing increased by four points over the nine months. Previous studies have suggested that the effect on the IQ lasts for at least five years.[ PDF of the study].

Auditory, Autism, Television

There was an unexpected but positive mention of the Tomatis Method on the tough police drama “The Shield” . Vik Mackey, one of the lead characters, has an autistic son who makes notable improvements thanks to a teacher who uses the Tomatis method. Its a very brief scene and unfortunately the message that comes across is that listening to classical music offers a quick and easy solution to autism but it at least raises awareness of Tomatis method. Overall autism is handled very well in “The Shield” with the problems of bringing up an autistic child, especially the emotional difficulties for the parents, being a regular background story line for the show. I suspect that someone involved with the show has some first hand experience of the problems.

Worth noting that Michael Chiklis who plays Vik Mackey helps with funds raising and publicity for the Cure Autism Now Organisation.