Could You Repeat That? An Intimate Look at Auditory Dyslexia

By Debra L. Butterfield / Guest Blogger

Marezie dotesan dozey dotesan liddle lamzie divy.

When you first learn a new language it looks and sounds like the above gobbledygook. But stop and imagine for a moment that you aren’t learning a new language. That what your friend is saying to you she is saying in your own language. Welcome to my world.

Several years ago, a book I reviewed for work helped me recognize my problem and attach a name to it. Doctors have never officially diagnosed me, but I battle auditory dyslexia.

Most often when people hear the word “dyslexia,” they think of children turning letters around as they attempt to read or write. There are many subtypes of dyslexia, and they do not all have a visual basis. In auditory dyslexia, a person struggles to distinguish and process certain sounds. In layman’s terms, sounds run together and my brain can’t pull them apart.

As a child I preferred reading textbooks over a lecture from the teacher. As a teenager and young adult, I rarely listened to radio music, nor did I purchase music albums; I couldn’t understand the words. Oh, I bought single-play records by the Beatles; they were all the rage then. But I only understood the chorus. What did I listen to the most? My record of the theme song to original TV series “Hawaii Five-O.”

My youngest son can hear a song once and know and remember every word. What an amazing gift! Give me Michael Bublé and Josh Groban. Yes, they’re very handsome, but the slower pace of their songs makes their words easier to understand. Peruse my CD rack at home, and you’ll find the majority are movie soundtracks or singers like Groban who sing mostly in a foreign language. That’s because there are no words to identify that impact my enjoyment of the music.

When watching a movie at home, closed captioning helps. When captioning isn’t available, whether on TV or during live conversation, the context of the other words often provides what I need to understand the message. Sometimes I pretend to understand what was said because asking people to repeat their words twice is the polite limit. When they look at me strangely, I know I either interpreted their words incorrectly or they think I’m going deaf and don’t want to embarrass me by saying so.
I’m grateful my children have never grown angry or impatient at having to repeat themselves, or when I interrupt a movie at the theater with “What did he just say?” They’ve never said, “Mom, get your hearing checked” because I explained to them I could hear them but couldn’t understand them. The difference may seem subtle, but it really isn’t.

Like my foreign language analogy at the beginning, a person can hear and still not understand.

Like any other disability, physical or otherwise, dyslexia is an issue that deserves your compassion and understanding. Fortunately, my symptoms are mild and did not impact my learning abilities as a child. For many that is not the case. There are many subtypes of auditory dyslexia and, accordingly, various remedies. The issue should be properly diagnosed by a doctor. offers a plethora of helpful information.

Oh, yeah, that sentence at the beginning…I typed it how I heard it. I was in my forties before I learned what people were really saying: Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.


Do you have a comment for Debra or about auditory dyslexia? Post it below.


9 thoughts on “Could You Repeat That? An Intimate Look at Auditory Dyslexia

  1. “Marezie dotesan dozey dotesan liddle lamzie divy.” Yeah, that’s what I heard and what I still hear in my heard. I guess in addition to ADD/ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia – and hearing loss, I might have to consider auditory dyslexia. I pretty much beat the written form of dyslexia, but even when I hear something I still may not understand it, then again, I’ve lost most fricatives.

    • Marsha – You may have shared with me before that you have auditory dyslexia. Regardless, I appreciate the gentle reminder that hearing loss comes in a variety of forms, and doesn’t always mean a loss of hearing but, rather, a loss of word distinction. Blessings to you.

  2. The song was sung that way deliberately:

    Marezie dotesan dozey dotesan liddle lamzie divy.
    Akiddle edivy too. Wouldn’t you?
    Now if the words sound queer and funny to your ear,
    Sort of mixed up and jivey.
    Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy.”

    Then you repeat the chorus. At least that’s the way I remember it.

    It was a WWII era song. Check out this link.

    • Judith – I had no idea an actual song with those jumbled words existed! I wonder if the writer of the song knew someone with hearing loss and/or auditory dyslexia. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Wow! I learned a new combination of words to check out – “auditory dyslexia” and I bet I also have that problem in addition to the actual sensorineural hearing loss that I’ve also had. Especially in the last few years with my vision getting worse in seeing finer details, it greatly impacts my lipreading and I guess my auditory discrimination as well. When I think the context of the conversation has suddenly switched, I can bet I have completely misunderstood a series of words… And when I do my “reality chdck” repeating what I (thought I) “heard”, I’m told what was actually said. I’ve been describing that effect as thinking I was dyslexic with sounds but didn’t know doctors used it as ab official diagnosis. Whew! Not just crazy, but crazy with a name!!

    Oh, and by the way, the “gobbledygook” poem you cited – “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy” – that was also a song!! I’ve heard it recorded by 50’s & 60’s singers, tho I think it goes back to the 20’s & 30’s, and my grandpa used to sing it. They’d sing it fast, all run together like that, and then again slower… Fun!

  4. @msdrpepper – Yes, it has been confirmed that the words mentioned in Debra’s blog post come from a WWII-era song. Thank you for pointing this out, and also for your comments about auditory dyslexia.

  5. First of all…just wanted to say that your blog is wonderful!
    Second…the nonsense phrase cited is called “Mairzy Doats,” a big hit from WWII. Many years ago, I remember eating oatmeal cookie snacks that contained white creme in the middle. They were similar to Little Debbie snacks for 50c you see today. These snacks’ name: “Mairzy Doats”!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s