What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Boy With APD, Fast ForWord

In this short (3 minute) video Dr. Martha Burns clearly explains what an Auditory Processing Disorder is. This video is part of a series on auditory processing disorder (APD), click below to get access to all the resources including an APD screening tool.

She Explains

  1. The difference between processing and hearing
  2. The 3 Key Areas that are affected
  3. The impact on language learners


An Auditory Processing Disorder is not a problem with hearing. So we start with a negative definition, the child hears adequately but the brain is not making use of the auditory information effectively.  

EXAMPLE So what happens is if anyone out there who is listening to this has ever learned a foreign language, the first thing that happens to you is you have a trouble “hearing” perceiving some of the sounds and that is what happens with an auditory processing disorder.

A child has trouble perceiving some of the sounds of the language. So a BA may sound like a DA and a DA may sound like GA or the child may be able to hear those differences in a very quiet room but the second it is noisy, the child’s auditory system becomes overwhelmed and they can’t discern what someone is saying very clearly and the way we can tell if the child is an auditory processing disorder when they are young even before we can test adequately for it, is that they tend to say “ha” or “what” a lot. So mum or dad might say “Billy, run upstairs and get  your coat and close the window, looks like it’s going to rain” and the child would go, “ha”.

It’s not that they didn’t hear again, it’s that (1 – processing speed) they couldn’t process it quickly enough or they (2 – working memory) couldn’t hold all the information in the mind or (3- listening accuracy) wasn’t quite clear enough. So it takes them longer to be able to handle information coming in and it’s also harder for them, it’s more difficult.

Now, what turns out, we have learned from this is that in the beginning what may affect in some children who are vulnerable to language problems, it affects the ability to learn the language.

So they are slow to learn to talk or they make speech sound production errors because they are confusing one sound with another sound. But when they go to learn to read in any language that is what we call an alphabetic language, where each of the letters represents sounds. The children have a devil of a time learning which sound goes with which letters.

There is a whole host of new research on that by one researcher whose name is Bates, another researcher whose name is Terry Phelas, another researcher whose name is Nina Crouse, and they are all starting to converge on being able to demonstrate that children with auditory processing disorder, its a  difficultly not with hearing but with handling the sounds of the language then causes all sorts of difficulties learning to read.

Specifically problems with

(a) phonological processing,

specifically problems with (b) auditory working memory, – holding information you hear in your mind

and then also interestingly, the new research showing that children have trouble with

(c) rapid auditory naming, so even naming quickly and easily is difficult and that translates into problem with reading frequency.

Click to video explainer

Auditory Processing and Hearing, What’s the Difference?

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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. How well the raw information is interpreted by the brain depends on our level of Auditory Processing skills which are primarily developed during the critical periods of language learning, between the ages of 0 to 3 years. This is the period when the brain is most prepared to map information from sounds or spoken words onto its language centres. People with APD (sometimes referred to as central auditory processing delay CAPD) 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, air-conditioners or 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 or perform to their full educational potential. The reason why they experience difficulties processing information is because the sounds of the English language have not been sufficiently imprinted on the language centres of their brain. While there may be different causes for this, often children have experienced multiple middle-ear infections (including “Glue Ear”) during the period of critical language development of zero to four years old, whether or not these ear infections were recognised at the time. Fast ForWord dyslexia aspergers autism cognitive skillsDespite the prevalence of APD, its symptoms are still frequently misinterpreted as signs of ADHD or ADD, a hearing deficit, general learning difficulties, or even depression. It is frustrating for the student, parents, and teachers to see a seemingly bright child struggle academically, without understanding why. As a result, they frequently slip through the educational cracks, where schools have neither the knowledge of how to address the child’s needs, nor the resources. Furthermore they usually don’t qualify for special educational assistance. 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 I 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.

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Auditory Processing Explained

Fast ForWord, Auditory Processing

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Does your student have any of these difficulties?

  • Is slow to respond to questions or follow instructions?
  • Forgets complex instructions?
  • Is easily distracted during listening tasks?
  • Is better at listening in individual or small group situations than in large groups?
  • Has particular problems listening when there is a lot of background noise?
  • Confuses similar sounding words (eg ‘comb’ and ‘cone’) during listening tasks?
  • Has difficulties saying complex words (eg says ‘mazagine’ for ‘magazine’)?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) can limit your child’s ability to learn

Your child may have an auditory processing problem when he or she has difficulty perceiving, decoding, remembering and retrieving information they hear.  Children need these auditory skills to learn.

If a child with APD falls behind in the early years of their schooling, they tend to fall further behind in later grades unless their ability to process what they hear is improved.  This is because a large part of the classroom teaching and instruction is spoken.

Get your Report on Auditory Processing Disorder

What is APD, does your child have it?  Want to know how to identify and treat APD in the home and the classroom? Want to learn specific APD remediation techniques? Complete the form to download a FREE COPY of the Auditory Processing Disorder Report  ‘A Practical Guide for Parents and Teachers’ by Joyce Kerins.

Joyce has over 10 years experience helping people with language and learning difficulties and is internationally regarded for her work with children who suffer from Auditory Processing Disorder.


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Auditory Processing Disorder and Dyslexia Relationship (draft)

Marty Burns, Reading Assistant

Dr Martha Burns.

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How It Works

Our treatment for auditory processing disorder for children and adults is centered around the Fast ForWord software series. Our brain training programs strengthen auditory processing, working memory, attention and sequencing — essential cognitive skills – and then reading programs build reading fluency and comprehension.

The exercises involve making hundreds of sequencing and processing decisions in quick succession, with speed and complexity added at the student’s own pace. Every session is an intensive auditory processing disorder therapy that creates new neural pathways, new abilities that translate into the language processing efficiency required for reading and learning.

This highly effective approach makes Fast ForWord the most recommended auditory processing disorder treatment for children worldwide.

adaptive treatment for auditory processing disorderAdaptive, individualized training

neuroscience based auditory processing treatmentNeuroscience-based

auditory processing disorder treatment researchResearch-validated for APD

Goals of our Auditory Processing Treatment

Improve Following Directions

Children with auditory processing difficulties do not process fast enough for accurate listening. Background noise can also be troublesome. Our software builds the processing efficiency and working memory required to accurately hear and follow directions at natural language speed.

Build Reading Efficiency

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) impacts phonological awareness, a crucial reading skill. Our  reading programs improve phonological awareness and reading fluency in younger readers, and decoding efficiency and reading comprehension in older children.

Improve Focus

auditory processing treatment in childrenAuditory processing disorder makes learning exhausting, often leading to an ADD diagnosis. While ADD medicines manage symptoms, our interventions for auditory processing disorder for children and teenagers targets the cause of inattentiveness. By making reading and listening easier, more engaging, our software can reduce ADD symptoms.

Build Language Skills

Auditory processing disorder can limit vocabulary, articulation and or conversational skills. Inefficient listening impedes language skill development, which also impacts reading and writing. Our auditory processing treatment helps language dexterity.

Online Software, Monitored by Professionals

Neuron Learning is a home-based intervention for K-12 children, teens and adults. We are the largest provider of Fast ForWord in Europe and The Middle East.

Pre and post testing assessment  Daily monitoring, weekly reports, regular calls

Online student rewards  Engaging games, online rewards

Treatment method includes online support  Risk-free start, guaranteed results, satisfied clients

Learn If Our Auditory Processing Treatment Is Suitable For Your Child

To find out if your child is a candidate for our program, please call one of our specialists for a free consultation Monday to Friday, 9AM to 5PM London time.