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 analyze the sounds perceived, understand the information heard, and process the neurological signals at an acceptable speed. Multiple systems of interconnecting neurons must work synchronously, bringing information together across modalities and processing centers to make sense of what we hear. For most of us, this occurs naturally. However, many children struggling in school have listening problems caused by the brain not processing sounds in the normal way.
An Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a disruption in the auditory nervous system’s complex network that affects the brain’s ability to process sound accurately and efficiently. An individual with APD usually has normal hearing sensitivity and will pass a basic hearing test, but processing and understanding what is heard are compromised. Since the ears and brain do not fully coordinate, it 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. A breakdown in listening skills 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 personal relationships.
APD affects 43% of children struggling in school. Yet, it can easily be overlooked or mistaken for other learning disabilities or conditions such as ADHD. It is also common for APD to coexist with other disorders. For example, APD may coexist with ADHD, speech and language delays, dyslexia, learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, sensory integration disorder, visual perceptual or visual processing deficits, and hearing loss.
Unfortunately, many teachers and other professionals have never heard of APD, so children may not get the early identification and treatment they need to reach their full potential. For example, 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. The treatment for APD is 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 hearing loss. APD causes distortion and delay in acoustic signal transmission, resulting in inaccurate sound coding 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. This can also make it challenging 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. They may be distracted by surrounding sounds from air conditioners, hallways, and noisy environments such as gymnasiums, making it very difficult to understand speech. It is 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.
Adults can also have an auditory processing disorder. Adults who pass a basic hearing test but have difficulty understanding and keeping up with speech, especially in background noise, should seek further testing. It is not too late to get help.
APD is treatable. Some types of APD can be completely remediated within a few months. However, no two individuals with APD are the same. 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. APD evaluations can be performed for children ages five and up, and adults are also seen for APD testing and therapy. In addition, Auditory Processing Center also offers Virtual Auditory Processing Evaluations and Teletherapy for auditory processing disorder. Therapy through Auditory Processing Center is highly individualized based on each person’s specific deficits. By customizing treatment and addressing any coexisting issues, children and adults can improve their listening skills, regain confidence, and reach their full potential.