Auditory Processing, Attention, and Survival

My mom is a huge fan of the TV reality series Survivor. She (and millions of others) never misses an episode.  If you watch the show, you’ll know that people will go to almost any lengths to survive.  And in fact, our brains are wired for survival at the most basic level and will work very hard to protect us.

I was so fortunate to hear Dr. Seth Horowitz speak at The Listening Program International Conference last Friday.  He said,

“Our entire survival depends upon listening.”

He went on to share that listening is a combination of hearing and attention.  Hearing tells us what’s happening in the world and attention tells us what to listen to.

The brain uses a tremendous amount of power to block out non-important sound.  It’s not about focusing on what’s important, but blocking out what’s not.

When a student has poor listening skills, the problem may actually be that he is listening to too much.  Not being able to filter out what’s not important can cause the person to miss or confuse information.  It can affect comprehension, memory, and attention.  Students who appear to be “spacey” may be so overloaded by all of the extraneous auditory information coming at them that they just shut down.

What looks like lack of motivation, laziness, or inattention in the classroom may actually be poor listening or auditory skills.

What’s confusing to parents and teachers is that these same “zoned out,” seemingly inattentive students can pay attention and get the information when they are really interested.  This goes right back to survival.  We heighten our awareness and attention when something is of interest.  If we already know something about it, we’re able to connect-the-dots more easily, even if it takes a lot of effort.

When information is new, which happens all of the time in a classroom, or moves quickly, as in conversation, keeping up and processing the information becomes exponentially more difficult.  A person with weak auditory skills, who is already putting out an excessive amount of mental energy trying to tune-in, hears what’s being said, but can’t understand it without the support of heightened interest and prior knowledge to give them a frame of reference.

The exciting work of Advanced Brain Technologies and others in the field of auditory training, has provided us with tools to literally develop the auditory skills needed for efficient functioning and learning.  Auditory training, or sound therapy programs such as The Listening Program, iLs (integrated Listening systems), and Samonas Sound Therapy are beautifully recorded classical music and nature sounds that have been acoustically engineered to help the brain pay attention to all of the frequencies and information in sound.  These very powerful and simple therapies help students of all ages to improve their auditory function and become better listeners and learners.

At Stowell Learning Center, we use a combination of passive and active auditory stimulation that involves daily home listening to prescribed sound therapy selections and specific lessons in the clinic that stimulate the auditory system to get a clear, accurate, and complete message when listening, while targeting the specific reading, spelling, comprehension, or language skills that the student also needs.

There are real and permanent solutions to struggles with listening, learning, attention, or social skills.

If you or your child are experiencing auditory or other learning challenges and you’re ready for real and permanent changes…

Speak directly to a Learning Specialist.

Cilck here to schedule a free call now.



At Stowell Learning Centers, we serve children and adults with diagnosed or undiagnosed learning and attention challenges including learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and autism spectrum disorders.


“Helping smart but struggling students dramatically improve or completely correct their learning and attention challenges by developing the underlying learning skills that are not supporting the learner well enough.”


- Jill Stowell, M.S.

Founder and Executive Director – Stowell Learning Centers

Best-Selling Author, including:

At Wit’s End: A Parent’s Guide to Ending the Struggle Tears, and Turmoil of Learning Disabilities

Take the Stone Out of the Shoe: A Must-Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning, and Attention Challenges


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