What is Auditory Discrimination?

KoolMinds Team
Auditory discrimination is the ability to notice, compare and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words. Specifically, auditory discrimination allows us to distinguish between phonemes in words. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in any given language. 

Auditory discrimination is an essential skill for reading and language development.

Signs of Weak Auditory Discrimination

Some of the difficulties that you will observe when your auditory discrimination is weak include: 
  • Learning to read
  • Following directions
  • Distinguishing the difference between similar sounds
  • Understanding spoken language
  • Remembering details

Activities to Develop Auditory Discrimination Skills

  • Go on a listening walk. Start by talking to the children about things that good listeners do such as being quiet, paying close attention and talk about why it is important to listen carefully. After the walk, have the children make a list of all the sounds they can remember and then talk about all of the different sounds that they heard while on the walk.
  • Play sound bingo. Play different sounds and then have the children mark off the sounds on their paper when they hear them. Start with animal noises and then move on to more challenging sounds such as musical instruments. 
  • Rhyme Time. Have the children listen carefully as you say 4 words. They have to pick out the word that doesn't rhyme.
  • Play sound detectives. You will have the children close their eyes and then tap one child on their shoulder and have them say something. Have the children open their eyes and try to guess who made the noise.
  • Letter sound matching activity. To play this game you will need letter tiles and some different objects. You will put two letters and an object in front of the child and say the name of the object. The child will then choose the correct initial letter sound.

Auditory Memory

Auditory memory, also known as Echoic memory, is where we temporarily store sounds that we hear as we try to make sense of them. It involves taking in information that is presented orally, processing it, storing it, and then recalling what was heard. Auditory memory is only stored for about 4-6 seconds, allowing you to quickly recall the sound you just heard and then it is moved into your short-term memory.

Children with weak auditory memory might struggle with following instructions; remembering terms and information that was presented orally; recognizing sounds and matching them to letters; and understanding what they read. Treatment for someone with weak auditory memory includes working with a speech and language therapist. Some ways that you can support them at home include breaking information into smaller chunks; encouraging them to rehearse information vocally; and using visual learning techniques. 

Phonological Processing

Phonological processing is the brain’s ability to manage and manipulate phonemes, as well as to associate meaning with them in both spoken and written language. It includes phonological awareness, phonological working memory, and phonological retrieval. Phonological processing is a cognitive skill that is critical to our language development.

Children that have weak processing skills might have a difficult time understanding spoken language, reading, and writing. Some ways that you can support students with weak processing skills include providing explicit instruction on phonemes and how they are produced; giving the student opportunities to practice skills through use of phonemic awareness games and activities; encouraging the student to read aloud; teaching the student to use mnemonic strategies; and allowing students to use assistive technology. 



CID Quick Tips Video: Hierarchy of Auditory Skills: Discrimination
Auditory Discrimination

If you or your child struggle with auditory discrimination, contact KoolMinds today to find out how we can help!

[i] Auditory Discrimination Activities | PhonicsZambia. (n.d.). https://phonicszambia.net/home-3/auditory-discrimination-activities/
[ii] Logsdon, A. (2021). Auditory Discrimination in Children. Verywell Family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-is-auditory-discrimination-2162385
[iii] Practice, E. P. (2021, March 21). Auditory Memory & Why Your Child Forgets What She Hears - The Ed Psych Practice Blog. The Ed Psych Practice Blog. https://www.theedpsych.com/blog/auditory-memory-why-your-child-forgets-what-she-hears
[iv] Przy, R. (2023). 27 Awesome Auditory Activities - Teaching Expertise. Teaching Expertise. https://www.teachingexpertise.com/classroom-ideas/auditory-activity/

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