Auditory processing refers to the brain’s recognition and interpretation of both speech and non-speech sounds. An auditory processing disorder (APD) occurs when something adversely affects the processing or interpretation of information. Children with APD typically have normal hearing, but often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, making it difficult to process information presented verbally and filter out background noise.  The cause is often unknown, however, it is defined as a disorder specific to the auditory system. Although APD may co-exist with ADHD or other disorders, it is not the result of a cognitive, language or related disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Disorder

  • Poor listening skills
  • Problems discriminating similar-sounding speech sounds
  • Difficulty paying attention to and remembering information
  • Problems following multi-step directions
  • More time needed to process information
  • Difficulty listening in noise
  • Poor organization of verbal material
  • Difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling and vocabulary
  • Low academic performance
  • Behavior problems

To fully assess and understand the cluster of problems exhibited by children with APD, diagnosis of APD requires a multidisciplinary team approach, including teachers (to analyze academic performance), a psychologist (to evaluate cognitive functioning), speech-language pathologist (to evaluate oral/written language and speech) and audiologist. Because APD is deemed an auditory  disorder, a definitive diagnosis may only be made by an audiologist.

Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment

Treatment of APD focuses on 3 fundamental areas:

  • Environmental modifications
  • Compensatory strategies (using higher order cognitive and language skills)
  • Direct treatment of the auditory deficit

Environmental modifications may include preferential seating in the classroom or use of an FM (frequency modulated) device in order to improve delivery of auditory information. Compensatory strategies (addressed by a speech-language pathologist) focus on strengthening language, problem-solving, memory, attention and other cognitive skills to help overcome the disorder. Direct treatment might involve one-on-one training or computer-based programs, including Fast ForWord to target the auditory deficit. Ultimately, all treatment must be tailored to specific needs of the individual.