Auditory Processing Disorder

"Auditory Processing is what the brain does with what the ears hear." ~ Jack Katz, Ph.D. Author, Researcher

Auditory processing has been referred to as "what we do with what we hear".  Our ears bring in the sounds of our world while our brains make sense of what we have heard. This is done in large part through a complex network of auditory neurons, or "pathways".  These auditory pathways help us do many things, such as localize where sounds are coming from and sort out important information from background noise. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is an umbrella term that describes various sub-types of auditory processing deficits that a person may experience.  Occurring in nearly 5% of all children, APD is a neurological disorder.

Auditory processing skills include:

  • Listening to the information (auditory attention)
  • Analyzing the sound or word (auditory decoding or discrimination)
  • Attaching meaning according to the rules of language (auditory association)
  • Pulling everything into a whole that can be used (integration)
  • Organizing and producing a response (auditory output-organization)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a deficit of a specific magnitude in two or more of these areas.

25% of children with learning difficulties have APD and Specific Reading Disorder
Up to 43% of children with learning disabilities have an Auditory Processing Disorder

Children with APD will generally pass standard hearing tests and have normal intelligence.  However, they sometimes have difficulty with understanding what they hear. 

A child with APD will typically exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Difficulty with hearing or listening ability
  • Difficulty following directions
  • Distractibility in background noise
  • Inattentiveness or short attention span
  • Poor auditory memory (difficulty attending to and remembering spoken information)
  • Problems in spelling words that are dictated
  • Needs frequent repetition
  • Often asks "What?" or "Huh?”
  • "Selective hearing", or inconsistent response to sound
  • Hears but doesn't understand
  • Delayed or inappropriate response to verbal questions
  • Functions as if there is a mild hearing loss despite normal hearing sensitivity
  • Bothered by loudness or other 'sound sensitivities'
  • Reading or spelling problem
  • Trouble learning a foreign language

Other Symptoms May Include:

  • Sensitivity to excessive auditory stimulation (i.e. noisy situations)
  • Insensitivity to tone of voice or other nuances of speech
  • Extreme tiredness after school
  • Problems with comprehension, language, phonics, spelling vocabulary, reading, or written language.

All kids need is a little help, a little hope and someone who believes in them. ~ Magic Johnson

Children with undiagnosed APD may receive unfair criticism.  They may also display excessive tiredness after school from the strain of listening.

Their listening difficulties, particularly at school, may lead to:

  • Frustration
  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulties with socialization
  • Withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Behaviour problems
  • Underachievement in school despite great effort

Children with APD often have deficiencies in their phonological and/or phonemic awareness, which in turn, may lead to poor performance with comprehension, language, spelling, vocabulary, reading and written language.  Their weak auditory processing skills may also affect achievement in other areas of life, including social interactions with peers.

The Canadian Academy of Audiology Guidelines for Central Auditory Processing Assessment for Children and Adults (2012), suggests that a formal diagnosis of an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) cannot be made until age 7 years or older.   However, recent research suggests that early identification of auditory processing delay is possible as early as age 5 years (Geffner, 2010 and 2017).  This is possible through new test batteries that have been developed to assist with early identification.  Treatment for a confirmed or suspected auditory processing delay is possible prior to age 7 years and provides a ‘jump start’ toward improved listening abilities. My approach is to offer early identification with early intervention to achieve the best possible outcomes.  To this end, I have created the Little Listeners Auditory Skills™ Program.

It is possible to determine if your child's auditory skill development is on track through the administration of research-based standardized testing for children as young as 5 years of age.  If their auditory skill development is found to be delayed, then specific early intervention strategies can be implemented to help your child's auditory skills improve. Early identification and early intervention will ensure the best possible outcomes. It is that simple.

Great News: Listening Therapy Improves Auditory Processing Skills!