Arizona Literacy & Learning Center

Improving Literacy in Arizona Since 1987

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What is Auditory Processing?

What is Auditory Processing?

According to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), Auditory Processing Disorder is a deficit in the processing of the auditory signal sent from the ear to the central auditory nervous system (brainstem and brain). It is an impaired ability to discriminate, recognize, and integrate auditory information for the purposes of communication and learning. It is specific to the auditory system and may be exacerbated in unfavorable/difficult acoustic/listening environments. Some language disorders and dyslexia may be secondary to deficits in the central auditory processes. Children with APD generally have hearing acuity within normal limits, meaning the sounds are loud enough for them to hear, but their central auditory system just can’t decode the information accurately and efficiently. It is estimated that 2-3% of children have APD. Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with APD as girls (Chernak,G. and Musiek, F.(1997) Central auditory processing disorders: New Perspectives. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group).

Children with APD may have a variety of listening and related problems. For example, they may have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and telling the difference between similar-sounding speech sounds. Sometimes they may act like people who don’t hear well, and ask for things to be repeated. In school, children with APD may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom.

A person with APD may:

  • Have greater than normal difficulty understanding conversation in the presence of background noise
  • Frequently misunderstand directions
  • Frequently ask for repetition
  • Not be able to follow two and three-step directions
  • Have difficulty discriminating similar sounding words (pat, bat)
  • Have increased sensitivity to noise
  • Have a short auditory attention span
  • Fatigue easily during auditory tasks
  • Frequently ask, “huh?” or “what?”
  • Have difficulty localizing sound

It is important to understand that these same types of symptoms may occur in children who do not have APD. Therefore, we should always keep in mind that not all language and learning problems are due to APD, and all cases of APD do not lead to language and learning problems. APD cannot be diagnosed from a symptoms checklist. No matter how many symptoms of APD a child may have, only careful and accurate diagnostics can determine the underlying cause.

The actual diagnosis of APD must be made by an audiologist. While schools, psychologists, and others may provide lots of valuable information when testing your child, none of them can confirm a diagnosis of APD.
Arizona Literacy and Learning Center provides APD evaluations by a licensed and certified audiologist. We also provide treatment for APD once the diagnosis is confirmed.