What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Hearing issues such as partial or total deafness are issues of the auditory “hardware.” There is a flaw somewhere in the structure of the ear that causes the incoming signal to be distorted or blocked. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are all fixes for the “auditory hardware.”

Auditory processing issues are issues of the auditory “software”: how the brain interprets and uses the incoming data it receives from the ear. People with auditory processing disorder have difficulty discerning between similar sounds, and understanding sounds when there is background noise. The ultimate result is that they have a challenging time understanding what other people are saying, even while they can pass a hearing test with flying colors.

How Auditory Processing Disorder might manifest

There are multiple types of auditory processing issues. Here are 4 types and how they manifest:

  • Auditory discrimination: The inability to distinguish between distinct and separate sounds.
    • Confuse similar-sounding words like “thirty” and “thirteen.”
    • Frequently ask speakers to repeat themselves.
    • Have a hard time following conversations.
  • Auditory figure-ground discrimination: The inability to focus on the important sounds in a noisy setting.
    • Become easily distracted, especially by background noise or other loud, unexpected noises.
  • Auditory memory: The inability to recall what you’ve heard, either short-term or long-term.
    • Have difficulty following spoken directions, especially with multiple steps.
    • Find it challenging to learn songs or nursery rhymes.
  • Auditory sequencing: The inability to understand and recall the order of sounds and words.
    • Remember and write numbers as the reverse of what was said (e.g. hear the number 864 but write 468).
    • Have difficulty with reading and spelling.

What causes Auditory Processing Disorder

There’s no conclusive evidence on causes. Some reasons are:

  • Premature birth
  • Head injury
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Lead poisoning
  • Genetic predisposition

Treating Auditory Processing Disorder

Techniques for teaching the brain and the nervous system to react accurately to auditory stimuli include:

  • Improving the vestibular system that may be limiting how the brain is interpreting auditory information
  • Auditory augmentative programs that use changes in frequency levels to allow the auditory system to integrate
  • Bone conduction programs that allow the brain to interpret chances in frequency through a mechanical component