What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

What is the difference between hearing and auditory processing?


Diagram---auditory-processing-brain2Hearing is when your ear collects sound.

Your ear then sends the sound to the brain.

Auditory processing is when your brain perceives and uses the sound. It’s “what we do with what we hear”.

Auditory processing is difficult and uses a lot more brain cells than hearing.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD / CAPD)?

A person can have good hearing (their ears are sending the sound to their brain) but poor auditory processing (their brain doesn’t match up the sounds properly).

Have you ever had a conversation with someone but not really “heard” (or processed) what they said? Maybe you asked them to repeat themselves. It happens to all of us sometimes but for some students this is happening constantly in the classroom. Can you imagine trying to pay attention and learn all day with this problem?

I am not deaf, so a hearing aid will not work.

It’s just that sounds don’t travel very easily to the part of my brain that hears them. It’s like as if my head is under water all the time.

I have to work very hard all the time to understand what is going on around me.

It’s hard for me to learn because although I am very smart, it takes longer for me to get the information than it takes other people.A 12 year old boy with APD

What other skills are needed for good auditory processing?

Fast-ForWord-auditory-processing-trainingAuditory processing is hard! To be good at listening, we also need fast processing speed, good working memory, good attention and concentration and sensitivity to the subtleties of sound.

What causes Auditory Processing Disorder?

There is no one clear cause of APD, although a number of factors could be involved, including genetics and ear infections/glue ear as a small child – it’s very common for young children to have middle ear problems that go unnoticed.

What are the symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?

Usually, students with an Auditory Processing Disorder will forget instructions, misunderstand what has been said, be slow to respond or drift off/tune out. They are intelligent students but may struggle in many subjects because of their listening difficulties, and they usually have trouble getting their thoughts onto paper.

For more information, download the Auditory Processing Difficulties Observation Checklist.

What about Auditory Processing Disorder treatments?

auditory-processing-treatment-3-prongedGood Auditory Processing Disorder treatment uses a 3-pronged approach:

  1. Compensate for the problem by repeating instructions, providing visual materials, and checking for understanding.
  1. Change the environment. Make learning environments easier for listening. Sit the child at the front of the class, install a sound amplification system, or reduce the amount of background noise when you are speaking.
  1. Most important: directly train auditory processing skills. Compensating and changing the environment will make things a little easier but they will not fix the auditory processing problem. The brain must be re-trained to process sound correctly and quickly. The Fast ForWord program is proven to improve auditory processing and change the brain, re-wiring it for listening. Click to find out how Fast ForWord improves auditory processing.

How can I learn more about Auditory Processing Disorder?


If you have a question, contact Sonic Learning’s health professionals. We have decades of experience with Auditory Processing Disorder and are here to help.

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This free telephone consultation can help to answer any questions you have about our services. At Sonic Learning we are all experienced teachers and health professionals so parents tend to find it very beneficial to be able to discuss their concerns and receive guidance from our knowledgeable team.
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