Auditory processing is the term used to describe how your brain recognizes and interprets sounds. It is when this process, despite normal hearing acuity, is somehow disrupted that a disorder is present. An auditory processing disorder (APD) affects the brain’s ability to process or interpret auditory information correctly.
After other issues, such as hearing loss, developmental or behavioral disorders have been ruled out, an auditory processing evaluation can be done to determine if a person has an auditory processing disorder. This comprehensive testing is used to evaluate if the brain is having difficulty processing auditory signals.
Being able to hear and recognize sounds properly is important for speech and language development, social development and learning. It’s important that individuals, especially children, be evaluated as soon as they show signs of a possible auditory processing issue.
Understanding auditory processing disorder
To get an idea of what it is like to have auditory processing disorder, imagine that you are in a noisy room, such as a classroom. The teacher is speaking, but you find it very hard to follow what she is saying because of the background noise. Because of this, you decide to focus instead on drawing on your paper.
When the teacher calls your name several times, you don’t hear her. Finally, she comes and touches your shoulder and says your name. You look up, only to realize that everyone in the room has been trying to get your attention verbally.
This is just one example of what it may be like to have auditory processing disorder. It can be frustrating and the person with the disorder has no control over their ability or inability to process auditory signals in certain situations.
Symptoms of auditory processing disorder
Auditory processing disorder can look different in each individual. Symptoms of the disorder are almost always worsened by noisy or highly stimulating environments.
Here are some possible symptoms of APD:
- Difficulty listening in background noise
- Difficulty following complex oral instructions
- Varied responses to auditory stimuli
- Easily distracted, impulsive and frustrated when too much noise is present
- Short auditory attention span; easily tired or bored during required listening activities
- Appearance of day dreaming or not listening
- Verbal requests are often met with “huh,” even after several repetitions
- Difficulty with reading and spelling
Requirements for auditory processing evaluation
Prior to an auditory processing evaluation, other evaluations and tests should be done to rule out common disorders and abnormalities. Children who show symptoms of APD should also be at least seven to eight years old, as it is difficult to accurately evaluate younger children.
A hearing test should be completed prior to an auditory processing evaluation. Because the evaluation requires feedback from the person being evaluated, their cognitive skills should be average and their language skills should be normal or only mildly delayed. Attention deficit disorder should also be ruled out.
Auditory processing disorder can be difficult to live with, both for the person with the disorder and the people in their lives. An auditory processing evaluation will not solve the problem, but it can give insight as to why the individual may be having problems at school, home or work. The evaluation can provide guidance for the professionals to help develop strategies and recommendations to lessen the impact of the disorder and help the individual succeed at school, at work and in other situations.