Auditory Processing Disorder

It all Happens in the Brain
Auditory Processing Disorder - Get a Free Guide for Parents and Teachers

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing is what our brains do with what our ears hear.

Speech and language delays are the most common early external signs of an auditory processing disorders in children.

Dyslexia and auditory processing disorder symptoms often occur together.

The Impact of Poor Processing

  • APD is different to hearing

  • Listening and language learning are affected

  • Auditory processing difficulties can affect the ability to follow instructions

  • Phonological problems can arise from difficulties in listening accuracy

  • Rapid naming issues are often associated with auditory processing

  • Auditory processing issues are sometimes called central auditory processing disorder and can impact reading fluency


Does Your Child Show These Signs?

  • Misunderstands what is said
  • Appears to be easily distractible
  • Experiences difficulty understanding in noisy environments
  • Appears confused by multiple, lengthy, or quickly presented verbal instructions
  • Difficulty expressing/explaining information or rephrasing self
  • Experiences difficulty understanding the point or focus of group activities
  • Experiences difficulty paying attention in the classroom 
  • Takes a long time to complete classroom work and/or homework
Four Features of Poor Auditory Processing

It is important to emphasize that APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorders.

Poor Listening Skills

Are you constantly repeating instructions for your child? Do you feel that your child “tunes out” or is in a “world of their own”? Is your child falling behind his or her peers academically?

Learning Difficulties

Children get distracted by background noise, cannot listen accurately and speedily to comprehend and follow speech. Phonemic awareness, phonics etc.

Mistaken Diagnosis

Auditory Processing Disorder can often be confused with behaviour problems, adjustment difficulties, and immaturity. Mislabelling includes ADD/ADHD/Autism and other incorrect labels.

Lack of Intervention

Compensatory strategies may or not be offered. Underlying skills development on listening accuracy and speed, attention and working memory have shown that Auditory Processing can be improved.

Auditory Processing is Not a Problem with Hearing

According to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) “the ability to listen to sounds also involves memory, learning, vision and attention, as well as hearing. If any of these functions are impaired then hearing and listening may be affected.”  They point out however that they are not in a position to assist in remediation Click here

Compensatory Strategies

Compensate for the problem by repeating instructions, providing visual materials, and checking for understanding. These can be difficult to implement as schooling gets more complex, as children need to become independent learners and workloads increase.

Change the Environment

Make learning environments easier for listening. Sit the child at the front of the class, install a sound amplification system, or reduce the amount of background noise when you are speaking.

Directly Train Auditory Processing Skills

Compensating and changing the environment will make things a little easier but they will not fix the auditory processing problem. There are many interventions you can use. Make sure these deal directly with strategies, exercises and activities that address processing speed and accuracy. The cognitive skills of memory, attention, and sequencing also need to be strengthened. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a method to "treat" Auditory Processing Disorder?

In short there is no surefire way to treat APD. Each person responds differently. As Teri Bellis says in the American Speech and Hearing Association’s website “with appropriate intervention, all children with APD can learn to become active participants in their own listening, learning, and communication success rather than hapless (and helpless) victims of an insidious impairment. Thus, when the journey is navigated carefully, accurately, and appropriately, there can be light at the end of the tunnel for the millions of children afflicted with APD.” 

What is the difference between Hearing and Auditory Processing?

Auditory Processing is basically the role the brain plays in the hearing process which ultimately enables us to develop learning skills. Essentially, it is our brain and not our ears that hear. The ears play the part of sending raw information on for further analysis where, all being well, it is eventually deciphered by the hearing centres in our brain. 

What is the impact of Poor Auditory Processing?

People with Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) have difficulty understanding instructions and sustaining attention, particularly in the classroom environment where there is frequently competing background noise. The sounds of peers whispering or talking, traffic, as well as lawnmowers or children playing outside, are just some of the common classroom distractions that make learning very difficult for these children. They need to expend far too much mental energy and cognitive resources trying to sort through the various sources of auditory information that their brains are receiving, such that they cannot learn.

Will Children Grow Out of Poor Auditory Processing?

It is important to understand that if your child does have a processing deficit, it is unlikely they will outgrow these problems without appropriate intervention. The difficulty lies in choosing the best way to assist your child’s learning, given that there are so many options available. Most of the parents we meet have tried various programmes and tutoring, with limited success. This may be because the intervention is not addressing the underlying processing deficit. It is as though the builders are trying to stabilise the roof before the walls are completely built. Equally it is essential to establish fundamental oral language skills before learning to read and write.

Is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) anything like ADHD, ADD or autism?

Current literature uses the term co-morbidity to relate Auditory Processing Disorder to other diagnostic labels. This means that the two may coexist with each other or with a multitude of other individually labelled disorders such as LD, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, autism, and PDD.
Auditory Processing Disorder, however, is one of the few that is “measurable” through established audiology and otology instrumental tests. ADHD, autism, are usually diagnosed by case history and observation of overt behaviours.

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