Auditory Processing , also known as Central Auditory Processing is the term given to what happens when your brain recognises and interprets the sounds around you. Your ears pick up the sounds which travel in invisible vibrations or sound waves through the air. These waves travel down the ear canal and hit the eardrum in the middle ear causing it to vibrate. Three bones in the middle ear link the eardrum to the cochlea in the inner ear. This cochlea is filled with liquid which carries the vibrations to thousands of hair-like nerve endings on a membrane stretching the length of the cochlea. In turn, these fire off electrical signals which travel up the auditory pathway to the brain. If someone has an Auditory Processing Disorder, something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the sound information being sent to the brain; the ears and the brain are not fully coordinating.

Children with APD often do not recognise subtle differences between sounds in words. They do not understand what is being said as well as they should. They sometimes behave as if they do understand (they are trying to listen), but lose track of the conversation or instruction. These problems are more likely to occur when the child is in a noisy environment (or if there is background noise), when listening to complex information, if more than one person is talking or when people are speaking quickly. Children with APD have a difficult time understanding speech presented in less than optimal circumstances. They do not have a loss of hearing sensitivity but a problem in the way they process the information.

To have effective auditory processing we must have:

·         A relatively high speed of information transfer

·         A good attention span

·         A well functioning memory

·         Sensitivity to the many subtleties of sound

When parts of this system do not operate effectively, listening is compromised.


The following points are not unique to children with APD, but are signs to look for as a parent, and things to be aware of as a teacher of a student with APD:

·         Difficulty hearing in any noisy situation

·         Easily distracted and bothered by loud or sudden noise

·         Difficulty following long conversations

·         Behaviour and focus improves in quiet settings

·         Difficulty following conversations on the phone

·         Difficulty remembering spoken information

·         Difficulty understanding abstract information

·         Disorganised and forgetful

·         Difficulty with reading and/or spelling

·         Difficulty following multi-step instructions

·         Difficulty taking notes

·         Difficulty with focus on an activity if other sounds are present

The main problem areas for children with APD are:

·         Auditory Figure-Ground Discrimination: The ability to pick out important sounds from a noisy background. Inability to pay attention if there is noise in the background (noisy, low structured classrooms or learning environments can be very frustrating).

·         Auditory Memory: There two kinds of auditory memory; Long-term auditory memory  is the ability to remember something heard some time ago and Short-term auditory memory is the ability to recall something heard very recently  (you might notice difficulties with remembering people's names , telephone numbers, following multi-step instructions, recalling songs).

·          Auditory Sequencing: the ability to understand and recall the order of words. They may confuse multi-digit numbers, such as 74 and 47, confusing lists and other types of sequences and have difficulty remembering the correct order of a series of instructions.

·         Auditory Discrimination: the ability to notice, compare and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words. This skill is essential for reading. They may have difficulty learning to read, distinguishing between similar sounds (boat/coat), following directions and remembering details. It can affect reading, writing and learning to spell. The child typically seems to hear, but not listen.

·         Auditory Attention: inability to stay focused long enough to complete a task.

At Back to Basics Tuition we understand the difficulties associated with Auditory Processing Disorder and have strategies in place to help overcome these.

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