Auditory processing is how the brain converts the noise picked up from the ears into meaningful information regarding the surrounding environment or language.
This is not a hearing test which is an assessment to see if the ears detect the noise adequately. We can do a hearing scan and refer to an audiologist if hearing appears poor. Children with auditory processing problems often have normal hearing.
We assess if a child is able to do the following appropriately for their age:
- Locate where a sound is coming from
- Notice small gaps between similar sounds
- Tell the difference between high and low tones
- Detect if tones are longer or shorter
- Tap in time to beats
- Hear two words simultaneously in each ear
Why is this relevant?
This is helpful to know, as the inability to locate where sounds or voices are coming from or to tune into particular sounds and dampen down other noise may lead to:
- Disorientation and affect spatial awareness
- Hypersensitivity to sounds (such as hand dryers and hoovers)
- Anxiety or feeling overwhelmed, which can lead to tantrums or a strong desire to avoid/get away from the offending sounds
If children have difficulties detecting how long the sounds are, when they stop and if the pitch is rising or falling it could hinder their ability to recognise the basic sounds (called phonemes) that blend together to make words.
Children that don’t have these skills may:
- Struggle to pick up phonics
- Find reading and spelling tricky
- Miss social cues within other people’s speech
- Misinterpret the context of conversations
We can not give a diagnosis of auditory processing disorder, but we can refer to an audiologist or speech and language therapist if required. We usually retest auditory processing skills after 3 months to see if there are any changes.