Variability in auditory processing performance is associated with reading difficulties rather than with history of Otitis Media

Helen Breadmore, Lorna Halliday, Julia Carroll

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The nature and cause of auditory processing deficits in dyslexic individuals have been debated for decades. Auditory processing deficits were argued to be the first step in a causal chain of difficulties, leading to difficulties in speech perception and thereby phonological processing and literacy difficulties. More recently, it has been argued that auditory processing difficulties may not be causally related to language and literacy difficulties. This study compares two groups who have phonological processing impairments for different reasons: dyslexia and a history of otitis media (OM). We compared their discrimination thresholds and response variability to chronological age- and reading age-matched controls, across three auditory processing tasks: frequency discrimination, rise-time discrimination and speech perception. Dyslexic children showed raised frequency discrimination thresholds in comparison with age-matched controls but did not differ from reading age-matched controls or individuals with a history of OM. There were no group differences on speech perception or rise-time tasks. For the dyslexic children, there was an association between phonological awareness and frequency discrimination response variability, but no association with thresholds. These findings are not consistent with a ‘causal chain’ explanation but could be accounted for within a multiple deficits view of literacy difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1760
Number of pages22
JournalDyslexia: An international journal of research and practice
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Authors. Dyslexia published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


Nuffield Foundation. Grant Number: EDU/40250


  • auditory processing
  • dyslexia
  • frequency discrimination
  • otitis media
  • rise time


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