Initially, the term “auditory processing” can be perplexing. It is common to assume that kids with auditory processing impairments are incapable of hearing incoming sounds. This is false. Children with auditory processing issues can really hear sounds perfectly well; there is nothing wrong with how their ears function.
The problem starts when the sound reaches the brain – something becomes unclear. To date, doctors and researchers are still baffled and cannot pinpoint what exactly goes wrong, but we do know that children with auditory processing problems have trouble recognizing small variations in sounds, pinpointing the source of a sound, and processing language rapidly, particularly in distracting and busy surroundings.
Signs and Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder
A child with an auditory processing problem may exhibit several red-flag behaviors. In addition, other conditions, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD), also exhibit several similar symptoms. In light of this, it is crucial to remember that noticing any of the following symptoms in a child does not automatically indicate an auditory processing impairment. Rather, getting a thorough evaluation is the next best step if the behaviors are detected in your child.
A child with auditory processing disorder may exhibit the following behaviors:
- May regularly request a repetition of what you say; you may see them frequently saying “what?” or “huh?”
- Does not appreciate being read to by others.
- May not immediately answer when spoken to.
- May be easily distracted, particularly in noisy surroundings.
- May have difficulty following multiple directions simultaneously, especially in noisy environments such as a playground, grocery shop, school, or restaurant.
- May have trouble listening and following directions.
- May become overwhelmed or even terrified in noisy settings.
- Experience difficulty in memorizing.
- May have difficulty hearing the distinction between very similar words, such as “tap” and “cap.”
- May struggle with using spoken language.
- Possibility of having trouble with pre-literacy capabilities such as phonemic awareness (understanding how each letter sounds) and rhyming.
- May have difficulty with school assignments involving language, such as spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing.
- May struggle with self-esteem or behavior due to the frustration of being unable to meet expectations at home or school.
Auditory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, and ADHD
Auditory processing problems are frequently associated with disorders displaying comparable symptoms. For example, a 2018 systematic review found that children diagnosed with auditory processing disorder exhibit similar learning impairments to those diagnosed with dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and specific language impairment.
Before starting APD intervention, a complete evaluation is required. Then, doctors can develop a treatment plan or therapy for auditory processing disorder based on an accurate diagnosis of the disorder’s baseline symptoms.
How common is auditory processing disorder?
Auditory processing disorder can affect all age groups. APD is typically more prevalent in children. However, it can also manifest later in adulthood. Statistics indicate that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with APD than girls.
Untreated APD can result in learning deficits. Therefore, obtaining a proper diagnosis to rule out other possible learning impairments is paramount.
Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder
An audiologist with specific expertise and training in auditory processing diagnosis is best able to identify abnormalities. Although APD can be suspected at a younger age, diagnosing a child after age seven is easiest. Before diagnosing, an audiologist will determine whether or not the child has hearing loss. The audiologist will then have the child perform several exercises that involve listening and responding to words, sounds, and phrases. A child’s performance on these tasks can help an audiologist confirm whether or not a child has an auditory processing issue. The audiologist may also do specific tests to determine how the child’s brain processes auditory information.
Other professionals may also contribute to the diagnostic process. For example, speech-language therapists can give language testing to evaluate a child’s use and comprehension of language carefully, and psychologists may be consulted to rule out conditions such as autism, cognitive impairments, ADHD, or ADD.
Dealing with Auditory Processing Disorder
There are numerous treatment options for kids with auditory processing disorders. Fundamentally, getting an appropriate diagnosis to receive treatments for your child is essential. In addition, there are numerous methods by which audiologists and speech-language pathologists can support children with auditory processing issues. Some specialists may also work with children to teach them to hear sounds more precisely and to follow increasingly lengthy instructions in circumstances with increasing distractions.
The key to successful intervention is to get a thorough diagnosis. Auditory processing disorder has many symptoms that overlap with various mental and behavioral conditions, which means that it could easily be misdiagnosed. Make sure to take your child to an audiologist who specializes in APD and related disorders.
How Parents and Teachers Can Help
Parents and teachers play a significant role in supporting and assisting a child with an auditory processing disorder. Below are some coping strategies that may help:
- Place the child near the front of the classroom, where he can easily hear and pay attention to the instructor.
- Permit the child to wear a hearing aid that makes the teacher’s voice more audible.
- Give the child time to recuperate in quiet, peaceful settings.
- Recognize and anticipate challenges in noisy places such as restaurants, schools, gyms, and supermarkets.
- Limit the television volume and music in the home, mainly when a child must focus or engage in a conversation.
- Give only one task at a time or employ breaks between instructions to allow the child time to comprehend the information.
- Before speaking, ensure that the child’s attention is focused on you.
- Check to see if a child has heard and comprehended what you said before expecting them to comply.
- Utilize visual aids wherever possible, whether at home or in the classroom.
Auditory processing impairments can be difficult for children, their families, and their instructors. However, with the appropriate treatment and coping skills, there is always the possibility of rising above APD.