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auditory processing disorder and reading

Are Auditory Processing Disorder and Reading Disorders Linked?

June 20, 2022

How are Auditory Processing Disorder and reading linked? Researchers have revealed a fascinating answer to this question. Read on to see what researchers have discovered and watch a 4 minute video interview with Dr Martha Burns, expert in auditory processing.

Over the last decade or more, research has shed light on the link between APD and reading. However, it’s long been recognised there is a link.

Auditory processing disorder and reading go way back

Samuel Orton, an early pioneer in reading difficulties, suggested that auditory or visual perceptual impairments—or both—were at the root of developmental reading disorders. Orton recognized that reading impairment was not related to whether these children had normal hearing or vision, but rather in the processing of information through the visual or auditory system.

In your brain, reading and language are the same thing

Reading experts once believed that reading, spelling and some writing problems resulted primarily from a difficulty in making visual discriminations—that is, you struggle to read because you can’t identify what you see. It seemed like common sense – you use your eyes to read, therefore the problem must be visual. However, using brain imaging technology known as fMRIs, neuroscientists have discovered that the same areas of the brain involved in processing auditory language are in fact involved in reading.

So today it is understood that rather than being a primarily visual task, reading is principally an auditory task. Children with reading problems often have problems recognising and manipulating the underlying sound structures of words (phonological processing) and struggle to map oral sounds to written language.

auditory processing disorder and reading

Wait, what is phonological processing though?

School Psychologist Rebecca Branstetter explains: “Phonological processing is the way the brain hears the sounds in words and is able to take them apart and put them back together again. For example, you use [this skill] to hear that the word “Cat” is three different sounds, or when I say three sounds (/c/ /a/ /t/), you can tell me that the word is “Cat.” When you have a “phonological processing deficit,” it can look like a number of other things, such as not hearing the difference between “card” and “cart.” 

So when a teacher is helping the student look at an unfamiliar word and says, “Sound it out!” it is very difficult because the student doesn’t hear the sounds the same ways as others. It can also be hard to remember which letters make which sounds. This is why it takes students with this problem longer to read.”

auditory processing disorder and reading

How is auditory processing and reading related to phonological processing?

Poor auditory processing skills can lead to poor phonological processing skills.

Auditory processing disorder related reading difficulties often persist because these essential cognitive skills are typically not addressed at school.

They are deep seated auditory processing disorders that cannot be corrected by word lists and other conventional methods

Click to learn more about symptoms of auditory processing problems.

auditory processing disorder and reading

Online auditory processing disorder test

People aged 5 and above who meet the eligiblity requirements can enrol in our online auditory processing disorder test.
You need an iPad to complete this test at home.
The test is research validated and results are evaluated by professionals.

Video: How auditory processing and reading are linked

In this 4 minute video, Dr Martha Burns, Speech Pathologist and Neuroscientist, defines dyslexia, discusses the latest neuroscience research on the causes of dyslexia and explains the role of auditory processing and visual processing in reading.


Boets et al. (2011). Preschool impairments in auditory processing and speech perception uniquely predict future reading problemsResearch in Developmental Disabilities, 32(2), p.560.

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