Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)
What is Auditory Processing?
Auditory processing is a term used to describe a number of skills that we all possess, which enable us to make sense of what we hear.
Auditory processing occurs in the brain and is commonly defined as ‘what we do with what we hear.’ For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as Central Auditory Processing with ‘central’ referring to it taking place in the brain.
What is Auditory Processing Disorder?
Auditory processing disorder is a deficit in the ability to interpret nerve signals arriving in the brain, as a result of hearing sounds.
This creates difficulty in being able to listen and extract information from what is heard.
As Auditory Processing encapsulates a number of different listening skills, an Auditory Processing Disorder can be a deficit in one or a number of these skills.
It is important to note that Auditory Processing Disorder is not the only cause of listening difficulties.
Listening is also very much dependent on cognition (intelligence, working memory and attention). Listening difficulties may also stem from a language delay or attention deficit disorders. For this reason, your Audiologist may recommend referral to an Educational Psychologist or Speech-Language Pathologist to further explore these aspects.
What causes Auditory Processing Disorder?
The causes of auditory processing disorder are not well understood. It is more common in children who have had recurrent otitis media (glue ear). This may be a result of a delay in development of the central auditory system due to fluctuation in hearing ability secondary to glue ear. For other children, it may be a variation or a delay in the normal processes of development and maturation.
How is Auditory Processing assessed?
There is no single test that will reliably diagnose an auditory processing disorder.
As auditory processing is a term encompassing a number of listening skills, it is assessed using a battery of tests in an attempt to understand the child’s ability in each of these areas.
The assessment will always begin with a test of hearing sensitivity and middle ear function (a standard hearing test). If a hearing loss is identified, further assessment and management will become the priority.
Following this, some screening assessments of short-term memory and attention will be conducted to ensure the child has sufficient capacity in these areas to successfully complete the listening tests that follow.
Each of the listening tests are designed to assess a different auditory processing skill.
How is Auditory Processing managed?
Following the Auditory Processing assessment, the audiologist will analyse the findings and prepare a report on the findings (this may take up to 1 week to complete).
There are no ‘quick fixes’ for Auditory Processing difficulties. In most cases, the management involves a number of strategies tailored to the needs of the child, to assist him / her to compensate for the difficulties and work on overcoming them. The aim is to assist in the normal development of the central auditory system that is responsible for the processing of sound signals.
Management strategies that may be recommended include:
- Classroom / Teaching strategies
- Strategies to assist the child to understand and take control of his/her listening situations
- Assistive listening devices (eg. classroom amplification, FM systems).
- Spatial processing training program