Auditory Attention: Meaning And Significance

Attention is a multimodal procedure, which is vital for the development, learning, and acquisition of language, not particularly in aspects connected to the field of linguistic structures but also in the development of communication skills that permit the child to participate in a conversation or talk regarding a topic. There are four types of attention: selective attention, divided attention, sustained attention, and executive attention. Within selective attention, there are two types of attention visual and auditory. Selective visual attention concentrates on particular stimuli while blocking the other stimuli, whereas auditory selective attention concentrates on particular sounds while blocking the other stimuli.

What is Auditory Attention?

Auditory attention is the capability to concentrate on particular sounds and process them to draw out the meaning. It plays a vital role in functioning, from learning to driving a car. Individuals may face problems completing ordinary tasks and difficulty in auditory attention. To treat Auditory processing disorder (APD), therapies are also present, which makes it difficult for patients to explain and apply the sounds they hear. The main aspect of auditory attention includes attracting attention. Humans can detect speech in various conditions and separate it from other noises. Sometimes who face a problem with auditory attention may look lazy, unfocused, or distracted. Patients with processing disorders face problems concentrating on particular stimuli and reading them correctly. Treatments for curing disorders related to auditory attention may differ from person to person, depending on the origin of the problem. People may sometimes face problems paying attention as they have poor hearing. Treatment may involve hearing aids or sign language education to give an alternative method of communication that may make the patient feel more comfortable.

Theories of Auditory Attention and Confirmation Bias

Colin Cherry, in the early 1950s a cognitive scientist who first started researching on cocktail party problem. Cherry was interested in how individuals can have private or individual conversations within a large group of people who were all talking at the same time. As an impact of this research, Cherry concluded that the body's auditory system could filter out other sounds to focus on one conversation actively. From this basic research, Cherry and other scientists started to examine how the brain receives, organizes, and processes auditory information. Another more interesting part of selective auditory attention found during these early years of research is the ways by which the brain of the individual quickly puts sounds together in order to make a useful explanation. Donald Broadbent expanded the research Cherry and founded Broadbent's Filter model, which suggests that the brain processes information in stages, blocking out or ignoring other unnecessary or irrelevant sounds. Broadbent's filter model suggests that at some point in the receiving procedure, the brain of the individual block out unnecessary information and permits only the information that it considers important. Despite this fact, selective auditory attention is an inevitable neurological procedure. Researchers have started to observe some of the ways that it can negatively affect a person or culture. One such problem is something that scientists refer to as Confirmation Bias, which is when selective attention is used to make a desirable explanation of the information that activates a person's belief.

Problems with Lack of Auditory Attention

Individuals face several problems due to a lack of auditory attention. Those are:

  • Trouble in remembering. For example- shows trouble following a simple command or directions or cannot remember the story's characters that have just been heard.

  • Trouble in discerning letter sounds

  • Shows problems in recognizing rhyming words

  • Difficulty in reading and spelling

  • Excluding sounds or saying words incorrectly while speaking

  • Trouble focusing when various distracting sounds are present in the background

  • Often asking regarding repeating the direction or messages

  • Trouble in thought expression and skill organization

Activities for Improvement of Auditory Attention

Some activities can help in the improvement of auditory attention. Those are:

  • Red light and green light game − Here, one person will hold up images of red and green lights, such as a visual cause. If assistance is required, he/she will also give verbal cues.

  • Freeze − Players will show distinctive actions, then the catcher has to say freeze, so the player should hold that pose or action.

  • Asking more questions while an individual reading − By this, the child can act the character of the story while reading it

  • Hand clapping rhythms − Taps, calps, or snaps following the same rhythm. The person should repeat the same rhythm or pattern of tap, tap, snap, snap, and beginning with simpler patterns that the child can follow.

  • Circling − In this activity, a child is provided with a blank piece of paper and asked him/her to draw rows and columns and write alphabets in that. One or more alphabets must be repeated. Furthermore, the child must be instructed to circle a particular alphabet.

Auditory attention can be improved by saying a group of words that belongs to the same category except for one or two. The individual must listen to that words and identify the word that does not belong in that category.


It can be concluded that auditory attention is a kind of selective attention. Auditory attention can be defined as the process in which one message is attended to within various messages while ignoring or avoiding others. The theories of auditory attention, problems faced by individuals due to lack of auditory attention, and the activities involved in improving auditory attention have been discussed. Auditory attention is important as it lets people be selective about the noises they hear and focus only on one speaker from among the crowd. Most research on auditory attention suggests that selective attention plays a critical role in regulating people's awareness of auditory stimuli.