What is Auditory Processing?

Auditory Processing concerns listening and understanding what is said. Children with normal hearing may hear speech sounds well, but not be able to convert them into a useful message. They may seem to have a hearing problem or “selective hearing”, and/or they may display learning difficulties especially with literacy.

Listening is much more than hearing. Listening can be difficult and tiring for some children. If they don't understand due to listening problems, children cannot keep on paying attention, even if their hearing is good. Hearing and listening are often confused, and the problems can appear very similar. Some children have both kinds of problem.

Adults expect the child to explain his or her difficulties, but most children cannot do this. Their learning is affected because they mishear and misunderstand. Then self-esteem is lowered and this reduces their success at school even further. Embarrassed and distressed by their mistakes, they cover up their poor comprehension, and the effects are misinterpreted as lack of concentration or of effort. They may develop irritating habits or problem behaviours.

Two specific Auditory Processing factors (concerned with competing noise and language intake) have been identified by audiologists at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. They affect listening and understanding when AP ability is maturing more slowly than usual. However, because their importance is not widely appreciated, many children develop learning and behaviour problems. When the effects of these factors are understood, teachers and parents are able to give the help that these children need.
This is explained in more depth in the Auditory Processing Booklets.

Signs of Auditory Processing difficulties vary depending on personality and on the experiences of the child. They include:

Delays in maturation of Auditory Processing are an under-recognised factor in reduced school achievement. Such delays may occur even in children of average or above average intelligence, resulting in problems at home or at school. AP ability normally takes up to twelve years to mature fully, but there is much variation.

It is important to identify children with Auditory Processing delay. When parents and teachers recognise AP difficulties, they can use strategies to avoid or reduce problems, so that the child's self-esteem and educational achievements increase.

Research has shown that Auditory Processing is important for learning. In Learning Difficulty clinics, 80% of the children have delayed development of Auditory Processing. A large controlled study, recently carried out in Australian primary schools, showed that when teachers measure and adapt to the AP capacities of their pupils, behaviour and literacy both improve. A wealth of clinical experience also supports this.

Note: Abnormalities in Auditory Processing ability are sometimes broadly referred to as CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorders). In CAPD assessments which report an abnormality, the factors involved or the remedial applications are often unclear. When the AP factors referred to above are interpreted in terms of delayed maturation, assessment directly suggests appropriate remedial strategies. Thus parents and teachers find the advice they are given is practical and sensible.