How Auditory Processing Can be a Challenge for Children (and Adults)
Auditory processing challenges can disturb young and old in everyday lifestyle situations.
Some children and adults alike may have perfectly normal hearing acuity but are not able to make sense of what they hear. This problem may be caused by an auditory processing disorder. These auditory processing disorders can be diagnosed and treated, with successful outcomes for the patient – and for their family members.
What is Auditory Processing?
Auditory Processing refers to the function of hearing, and ultimately the translation of sounds into meaning performed at the central parts of the brain named the auditory cortex. To interpret and respond to auditory information the brain receives signals originated by sounds coming from the external world that first enter the ear canal, vibrating the eardrum, passing the middle ear, the cochlea and the auditory nerve through the brainstem all the way to the auditory cortex.
Speech is the most important auditory signal used for communication. Interpretation of speech signals requires a set of auditory skills that allow auditory processing to occur.
Auditory processing is commonly defined as “what the brain does with what we hear”
Auditory processing disorder (APD)
Auditory processing disorder (APD) is also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) and is a common finding amongst children with atypical development, behavioural and learning difficulties.
Kids with CAPD are easily distracted and cannot focus on an auditory task for very long.
The more challenging the acoustic environment the harder it is to follow speech and verbal instructions.
Young children prone to “glue ear”, middle ear infection or otitis media are commonly diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder when starting school. Temporary diminished hearing commonly caused by ear infections deprives the brain of the appropriate auditory input required for the natural development of auditory processing skills. Allergies that affect the upper respiratory tract (nose and throat) are common triggers of recurrent middle ear infections and consequent APD.
There are also a number of children diagnosed with APD who have had no previous episodes of ear infection but may have other issues affecting their immune system and brain development.
Corey’s Challenges with Auditory Processing
The following story conveyed by Corey’s mother illustrates the journey of one of the children at Healthy Hearing and Balance Care.
Corey was a very active boy who joined little athletics at age 6 to burn off some energy. His parents noticed that at running races the starting gun would ring out loud and clear but he would just stand there. He had to watch the other kids leave the start line first before running himself.
Corey’s parents would give him simple instructions but he did not seem to hear. Corey had a hearing test showing his hearing was normal, and his mum thought he must have been just ignoring them.
His behaviour, however, continued to worsen causing problems at school. A family friend recommended they go to Healthy Hearing and Balance Care.
Testing for APD
Corey went through a series of hearing tests confirming that he had an auditory processing disorder.
The test results indicated that he was able to hear but could not integrate different sounds coming from each ear.
Auditory Training introduces new skills
Corey was given auditory training to improve these skills. The training required a lot of commitment from Corey and his family – 5 days a week at home after school.
A bright future with new Auditory skills
Improvement started to show 3 months into training. Corey is now progressing well at school and his marks have improved considerably.
Corey has become a self-determined person whose future looks brighter than ever…
- Kraus, Nina, et al. “Auditory neurophysiologic responses and discrimination deficits in children with learning problems.” Science 273.5277 (1996): 971.
- Gottlieb, Marvin I., Peter W. Zinkus, and Anne Thompson. “Chronic middle ear disease and auditory perceptual deficits: is there a link?.”Clinical Pediatrics18.12 (1979): 725-732.
- Jerger, James, and F. Musiek. “Report of the consensus conference on the diagnosis of auditory processing.” Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 11.9 (2000): 467-474.