Thursday 27 September 2007

Relation between ear infections and dyslexia

Famous People with learning disabilities

It's all in the ears

Last week D  had a cold. Nothing to worry about, but when he said that his ears were popping I became a bit nervous. I asked the pharmacist if he could have an ear infection. She said that at age 13 and without any other symptoms this would be highly unlikely. Do you think now I am an overprotective mum. Maybe maybe not.

D  is dyslexic. This is not about flipping letters although it is seen a lot in dyslexics. Most dyslexics have problems with phonological awareness. They don't hear the sounds of letters in a word and therefore they can't blend them together to read a word. The brain compensates for this by using its right site.

D  was 9 when I enrolled him for the Gillon Phonological Awareness Training Programme at the University of Canterbury. After 18 hours of training he improved a whole year in reading. During this training he had 2 hearing tests. On both occasions he had an ear infection with no obvious symptoms at all. I than realised that the same had happened during random hearing tests at school. Later when I met Prof Gillon at the Dyspraxia Support Group, she confirmed that there was a correlation between ear infections and dyslexia.

Rosemary Boon, a psychologist at an early intervention centre wrote that one of the symptoms of an immune system that doesn't work optimally are frequent ear infections. Frequent ear infections are a major cause of Central Auditory Processing disorder (CAPD). She mentioned that 80% of the children tested in their centre didn't hear with enough sensitivity to learn accurately. This cannot be detected by conventional hearing tests because they test only a small range of the hearing scale.

When children have an ear infection, hearing acuity is reduced for up to six to eight weeks after the acute stage of the infection has passed. Dr Tomatis mentioned that when there are frequent ear infections, the little muscles attached to the eardrum get weak. Sound coming in get distorted. Accordingly these mumbled sounds enter the cochlea. Sounds with nearly the same base frequency like D and P, and T and D are difficult to analyse and an auditory processing delay occurs. One of the functions of the vestibular system which is also inside the inner ear is to lead the eye from letter to letter and CAPD can lead to eye tracking problems.

I think auditory processing delay results in sensory integrative dysfunction. If you want to learn about Sensory integration read this. Very simplified you can say when the input isn't right the output isn't right.

To conclude I think that glue ear and ear infections can play a significant role in acquiring learning disabilities. Many will say yeh but that is not scientifically proven. But to quote Edward de Bono "science is based on possibilities not on critical thinking". The good thing however is that people with learning disabilities can develop skills which are more difficult for others. The most important thing is increased awareness so that these people don't get lost.

Hope you hear this, marja


  1. Marja, I had no idea there was a correlation between ear infections and dyslexia. I also didn't know there was a connection between dyslexia and phonological awareness.

    Great post!


  2. Je engels is in ieder geval perfekt ten opzichte van mijn engels maar dit lange verhaal daar ga ik geen woordenboek bij halen.

  3. I am happy about that magdalen islands

    Yeh I have to mention though that earinfections have this effect during developmental important ages. Happy you learned something

    O well Bert maybe next time.

  4. Saw your comment on my blog. I'm happy you liked it! I'm not sure if you have read much of my profile or blog yet but my son Izzak has the same problems. He is dyslexic, dysgraphic and has CAPD, a few other things as well. I know about that information with the ear infections. Izzak had very frequent ear infections when he was little so I beleive all this is true as well.

  5. Hi Marja..
    I linked over to your blog from Terri's at my4kids.
    This is great information..My daughter has a terrible time in school and so I've been researching her symptoms on the internet. She seems to have symptoms of capd and sid...I find the ear infection connection she had a few when she was little...not very many but they were severe, at least once she had an eardrum burst. I will have to check out the links in this post.
    thanks for sharing this info..I like how you've put it all together..very well written!

  6. Ye my4kids these learning disabilities come in groups.

    Heather I also think there is a connection between milkallergie and earinfectiions. But I don't go there. Earinfections have a big impact when they occur during critical developmental stages. When the child is small.


Thank you!!