Auditory processing refers to “how well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain understands what the ear tells it” (Musiek).
Children with Auditory Processing difficulties may seem to have a hearing problem or “selective hearing.”
In its very broadest sense, Auditory Processing refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information. Auditory processing refers to the ability to identify, interpret and attach meaning to sound that is heard. This can be in the absence of a physical hearing loss.
Children with auditory processing difficulties are often easily distracted because they find it difficult to filter out the meaningless background noise and pay attention to the meaningful information.
Auditory Processing difficulties may cause a delay in development of receptive and expressive communication skills. The disorder may be evident in a toddler or preschooler (i.e. failure to follow commands correctly, difficulty following a conversation, difficulty reciting nursery rhymes), but it will be much more evident when the child begins more formal education (Grade 1- Foundation Phase). Reading and writing difficulties are likely to emerge due to the child’s confusion regarding speech sounds.
Phonological processing is an auditory processing skill. It refers to the ability to reflect on and manipulate the sound structure of an utterance as distinct from its meaning. The terms auditory processing and phonological processing are therefore often used interchangeably.
A child with auditory processing/phonological processing difficulties may present with the following difficulties:
- Omitting a sound or sounds in spoken words
- Speaking in an inconsistent speech pattern
- Mispronouncing frequently-occurring words
- Making articulation errors in speech
- Have difficulty in producing rhyming words
Auditory perception errors:
- Misperceiving a word to be a similar-sounding word to that which was spoken.
- Difficulty paying attention to and remembering information presented orally
- Difficulty carrying out multistep directions
- Poor listening skills
- Need more time to process information
Reading and written language problems:
- Learning pre-literacy skills
- Sounding out words as they read
- Substituting words with the same initial letter when reading
- Using inventive spelling beyond the early primary grades
- Omitting vowels when spelling words
Having said all this, there is still a great deal of controversy surrounding the term Auditory Processing Disorder.
Jeremy at The Speech Guy, highlights the conundrum in his excellent post “I’ll have a sausage and people pizza.“(Unfortunately, this link is no longer available, but I am hoping that he will be able to send me the post). The one camp believes that Auditory Processing is a separate disorder and the other camp believes that it is as a result of an underlying weakness in the individual’s language skills.
Early identification and intervention is imperative irrespective of the terminology used.