Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2015

Thesis Advisor(s)

Erika Skoe; Rachel Theodore

Honors Major

Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences


Cognitive Psychology | Phonetics and Phonology | Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics | Reading and Language | School Psychology | Speech and Hearing Science | Speech Pathology and Audiology


What makes someone a good reader? What makes someone a poor reader? The root biological marker of reading ability has yet to be determined. Many scientists agree that phonological awareness, the understanding of speech sounds, and phonological decoding are key components of reading ability (Melby-Lervag, Lyster, & Hulme, 2012). In addition to this, new research suggests that the auditory system, specifically the timing of auditory processing in the brain, provides a crucial platform that supports the development of reading ability (Banai et al., 2009). This thesis provides empirical data to support the link between reading skill level and auditory processing in adults using auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) as an index. ABRs, as will be discussed further, are electrical signals measured from the scalp that reflect activity from subcortical auditory structures. Data was collected as part of an ongoing collaboration between the labs of Dr. Erika Skoe and Dr. Rachel Theodore.

This thesis delivers a review of the existing evidence of the connection between auditory processing and reading ability in various populations (Sections 2 and 3), beginning first with an overview of the ABR (Section 1.2). Based on this literature, the thesis develops a set of testable hypotheses (Section 4), which were explored in an empirical study performed over the last year (Section 5). Lastly, results are presented (Section 6) and discussed with an eye towards future directions (Section 7).