To communicate effectively and succeed in school, children must process what they hear accurately.
Auditory processing is what turns sound into usable information. It is the ability of the central auditory nervous system to take in and understand the information you hear, processing the auditory information at an acceptable speed. For most of us, this occurs naturally. However, many children struggling academically have a listening problem caused by the brain not processing sounds in the normal way.
With an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), the child will usually pass a basic hearing test, but the ears and brain do not fully coordinate. This interferes with the brain’s ability to recognize and interpret sound. APD can make it hard to distinguish small sound differences within words, remember what was heard, and keep up with ongoing speech, especially when there is background noise or when more than one person is talking. When there is a breakdown in listening skills, it can disrupt the normal acquisition of language, leading to speech/language delays and difficulties communicating. This can adversely impact a child’s success in school, self-esteem and/or personal relationships.
APD affects 43% of children struggling in school, but it can easily be overlooked or be mistaken for other learning disabilities or conditions such as ADHD. It is also common for APD to coexist with other disorders. APD may co-exist with ADHD, speech and language delays, dyslexia, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, sensory integration disorder, visual perceptual or visual processing deficits, and hearing loss.
Since many teachers and other professionals have never heard of APD, children often do not get the early identification and treatment they need to reach their full potential. For example, many people have heard of dyslexia, but few are aware that research indicates that up to 70% of children with dyslexia have an underlying auditory processing disorder. Overlooking an auditory processing disorder can lead to years of extra reading instruction working around an underlying problem. Since the treatment for APD is very different from other learning disabilities, if APD is not identified and treated, it makes it much harder for a child to communicate effectively and succeed in school.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) mimics a hearing loss. APD causes distortion and/or delay in auditory signal transmission, which results in inaccurate coding of sound in the brain.
- Since the brain receives sounds incorrectly, children with APD may not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words (duh and guh for example), and they may have difficulty using those sounds for speech and language. It can also make it difficult to learn to read and spell.
- Since individuals with APD struggle to process (or interpret) what they hear, it often causes listening comprehension problems.
- Many children with APD have trouble screening out background noise, so surrounding sounds from air conditioners, hallways, and noisy environments such as gymnasiums make it very difficult to understand speech. It’s like listening to a radio station with static or other stations interfering with the reception.
- In addition, individuals with APD often have poor ability to remember what they heard. They typically try so hard to understand that they often forget parts of what they hear.
APD is treatable. Some types of APD can be completely remediated within a few months. Adults may also suffer from APD, but it is not too late to get help. No two individuals with APD are the same, and since there are different types of APD, symptoms will vary from person to person.
Auditory Processing Center specializes in the assessment and treatment of auditory processing disorder. Full APD evaluations can be performed for children ages five and up, and we also see many adults for APD testing and therapy. Therapy is highly individualized based on each person’s specific deficits so that they can receive the correct treatment to improve their listening skills, regain confidence, and reach their full potential.