The Ears & Learning

Even small amounts of damage to the ears can have huge effects on learning and well-being because the ear houses two main sensory systems; the auditory and the vestibular.

The ears and learning

The ears begin developing in the fifth week of pregnancy so there is a greater chance of exposure to negative influences.

Even small amounts of damage to the ears can have huge effects on learning and well-being because the ear houses two main sensory systems; the auditory and the vestibular. Some common causes of ear damage include:

  • poor nutrition
  • toxins such as smoking, alcohol, drugs
  • ear infections
  • frequent colds, flu, blocked nose, allergies
  • medications, anesthetics
  • frequent exposure to loud noise
  • mother’s movements (or lack of)
  • mother’s stress
  • birth process

Damage to the ears can often go unnoticed and untreated. Even with treatment negative effects can still occur because audio-processing and the vestibular system should follow a developmental sequence which build on earlier skills. For example, if a child has ear infections when they are learning to talk they might only hear muffled sounds and not understand what they hear. This would negatively affect spoken language as we can only say the sounds we hear. Poor speech is often a “red flag” for learning difficulties because the child is unable to hear different letter sounds and often cannot process accurately the sounds of speech.

The usual audiometry assessments test IF a child can hear. At Active Listening we test HOW a person hears. Testing if the ears hear through both air and bone conduction, if the left and right ear are working together and at what volume each frequency is heard can indicate possible sources of anxiety, or difficulties with communication, movement and learning.

This chart lists some effects of ear damage:

Auditory Vestibular
Poor spoken language/ pronunciation, communication Poor organization of sensory information
Withdrawal from others Poor balance, co-ordination
Poor spelling Either reluctance to participate in physical activity OR need for frequent movement
Poor writing Poor motor skills – poor handwriting
Poor reading Poor sense of space
Inability to follow instructions Motion sickness
Poor social skills Lack of concentration
Low energy Poor directionality

We hear with our ears but we listen with our brain. Hearing is a passive automatic process. Listening is an active process which can be trained through repeated exposure to different sound frequencies thereby retraining the brain to pay attention.