What is Auditory Processing?
Auditory Processing refers to our ability to process the information we hear; i.e. how our brain manages and interprets the information sent to it via the peripheral hearing system. It is estimated that approximately 2-5% of the paediatric population has a clinical Auditory Processing Disorder. Comprehensive diagnostic testing (including Spatial Auditory Processing Disorder) can be carried out for people aged 8 and over. Testing specifically for Spatial Auditory Processing Disorder can be carried out from the age of 5.
Those with an auditory processing disorder can experience a range of difficulties when communicating, and children with auditory processing difficulties that are left untreated may struggle in the classroom.
Behaviour exhibited by the person presenting with auditory processing disorders include:
- Difficulties following complex instructions
- Difficulties hearing when in background noise or in the classroom
- Readily distracted
- Poor retention of new concepts and ideas (apparent memory lapse)
- Academic performance below average level, especially in mathematics, literacy or languages
- Improved performance when shown tasks rather than with verbal instruction alone
- A lack in self-confidence
- The need for frequent clarification
Who should be referred for Diagnostic Auditory Processing testing?
1. Those with difficulty understanding speech in the presence of background noise
2. Those with difficulty following directions and/or seeking frequent repetition/clarification
3. Those experiencing difficulty differentiating between similar sounding letters
4. Those with difficulty spelling, reading and understanding verbal information in the classroom
Who cannot be assessed for Diagnostic Auditory Processing Disorders?
1. Those with middle ear disease or abnormal audiometry (those with hearing loss)
2. Children who are aged below and/or have a developmental age less than 8 years
3. Those with higher order deficits such as language, learning, communication or memory deficits
4. Those with cognitive deficits such as autism, intellectual disability, or attention deficits
How is a diagnosis of an Auditory Processing Disorder made?
Diagnosis of an Auditory Processing disorder is complex and diagnosis can only be made by an audiologist. Assessment for an Auditory Processing disorder takes time, and all assessment results need to be carefully assessed. Occasionally, additional assessments may be recommended by the audiologist such as Speech Pathology Assessment or Psychological assessment. The audiologist will conduct a range of tests to make an accurate diagnosis and also recommend the necessary treatment options available based on the areas of weakness.
What treatment options are there for those who have an Auditory Processing Disorder?
Treatment for an Auditory Processing Disorder is highly individualised and there is no ‘one rule fits all’ approach. Treatment may include one or all of the following:
1. Changing the learning or communication environment to improve access to auditory information e.g. demonstrating new tasks.
2. Use of Communication Strategies e.g. utilizing visual cues available such as written information to complement spoken instructions.
3. Use of Frequency Modulation (FM) technologies.
4. Direct treatment of the weakness via live and computer-based auditory training exercises.
5. Occasionally, those with an auditory processing weakness will also be recommended to see a speech pathologist and/or an educational psychologist.