What is Auditory Processing?
Most people are a bit unclear on what is meant by Auditory Processing. Is it a problem children have, or is it something we all do every day when we use speech and language?
In fact auditory processing is essential for talking on the phone, reading a book or having a conversation. This is why, if children have an auditory processing disorder, they struggle to keep up in school.
Sound Therapy is an easy and enjoyable way to improve our auditory processing, so we are often explaining to our clients what auditory processing is and how important it is to our daily functioning. In fact, enhancing auditory processing is at the core of most of what we do with Sound Therapy.
Auditory processing describes how we pay attention to sound – how the brain interprets the sounds we hear. It is defined as the ability to ‘hold, sequence and process’ auditory information (DEET 1991).
Most of us actually hear far more than we are aware of. For example, we may not notice the ticking clock or the dripping tap until someone draws our attention to it. This is because, while hearing is a function of the ear, listening – paying attention – is a function of the brain.
A person with an auditory processing difficulty will experience trouble in many basic daily communication tasks. If you can tick more than two or three items on this list, for you or your child, this probably indicates an auditory processing problem.
• Delayed language development
• Poor listening ability
• Difficulty conversing on the phone
• Difficulty hearing in a noisy room
• Trouble in sequencing the sounds of words
• Difficulty perceiving high frequency sounds: ‘t’, ‘f’ ‘s’, ‘k’, ‘p’, ‘th’, ‘sh’
• Confusion with similar sounds: e.g. ‘da’ and ‘ba’
• High distractibility, with a short attention span
• Poor speech comprehension, often asking ‘What?’
• Poor memory and inability to follow directions
• Difficulty in expressing desires, often blaming the other person for not understanding
• Academic problems, particularly in spelling, reading or comprehension
• Difficulty pronouncing complicated words
• Behaviour problems and social difficulties
You can read more about auditory processing on our website . And on the same page you can scroll to the bottom and request a free report on auditory processing at this link
I find when I explain about Sound Therapy to someone who has poor auditory processing, often a light goes on, as finally they feel someone recognises this problem they have struggled with internally for years. It really is like having crossed wires in your sound reception or sound output system. In fact, that description is more accurate than you may think!
Dr Tomatis discovered that to process sound efficiently, the right ear must lead. The right ear is the most direct route for sound to reach the brain, as it has the most direct connection to the main processing centre for language, which is in our left auditory cortex. Sound Therapy programs are recorded with a specific emphasis in the filtering to stimulate the responsiveness of the right ear, and train the listener in right ear dominance. This serves to “untangle the crossed wires” and make sequencing of sound, and high frequency sound awareness much more fluent.
Auditory processing disorder is also sometimes called Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).
Sub Categories of CAPD
Because this disorder encompasses several different difficulties, it has been broken into a number of subcategories, each of which has different signs and different treatment approaches.
• Auditory decoding deficit is the ability to understand and de-code incoming sound.
• Auditory associative deficit affects our ability to create links between incoming sounds and our auditory memories.
• Auditory Integration Deficit means we may have trouble linking tone of voice to the meaning of words.
• Prosodic deficit affects the ability to interpret tone of voice.
• Output organisational deficit makes it hard to organise and produce the words we want to explain ourselves.
Here is a chart I have adapted to show how Sound Therapy is relevant to each subtype.
Profile Region of Dysfunction Associated Problems Educational Intervention Benefits of Sound Therapy
Auditory decoding deficit
Primary (left) Auditory Cortex
Difficulties with spelling hearing in noise. speech sound training. Improves clarity of hearing.
Auditory Associative Deficit
Left (associative) Cortex
Receptive language deficits. Rephrase using smaller linguistic units. Improves comprehension and vocabulary.
Cerebellum Difficulty linking prosody and linguistic content. Limit or discontinue use of multimodality cues. Improves auditory visual linkages.
Nonprimary (right) Auditory Cortex and associated areas
Cerebellum Difficulties with judging communicative intent. Placement with animated teacher. emotional appreciation of meaning in sound.
Output organisational deficit
Temporal-to-frontal and/or efferent system
Cerebellum Difficulties with expressive language and word retrieval. training in use of organization aids. Improves motor praxis
This chart has been adapted from the excellent work of Dr. Teri James Bellis’ Subprofiles of CAPD. Find more detail here http://www.angelfire.com/bc2/capd5/
I have added into this excellent outline, the relevance and benefits of Sound Therapy for the different types of CAPD.
What causes Auditory Processing Disorder?
Many parents today are very concerned about what causes these problems and how to prevent them. This type of learning difficulty has definitely increased in the last couple of decades (ask any teacher over 40). Is it our fast paced lifestyle and the overload of electronic communications? New evidence suggests this may in fact be the case. I came across a fascinating article that was published in the New York Times called Fixated by Screens, but Seemingly Nothing Else by Perri Klass, M.D. Published: May 9, 2011.
Experts say that a child’s ability to stay focussed on a screen but nowhere else is indicative of ADHD – a condition which has strong overlaps with Auditory Processing Disorder. It appears that children with ADHD spend more time playing video games than their peers. The immediate rewards of point scoring provide frequent injections of the neurotransmitter, dopamine. Researchers have theorised that the very immediate, second to second rewards offered by video games, train the brain only to respond at such speeds on high alert, and detract from the ability to sustain attention and defer rewards. It is thought that Children with ADHD may find video games even more gratifying than other children do because their dopamine reward circuitry may be otherwise deficient. Thus video games may act as a kind of self medication for these children.
While increased screen time may be a result of ADHD some researchers also fear it may be one of the factors causing sensory processing disorders. Some studies have found that children who spend more time in front of the screen are more likely to develop attention problems later on.
Links have also been found between auditory processing disorders and depression, as dysfunctional neurotemporal circuits are seen in both cases. View this link to read about research into this correlation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1963351/
Therefore, auditory processing disorders are not just an inconvenience. They do indicate a deficiency in brain performance and a matter that needs to be taken seriously by the parents or individuals with this condition. It is fortunate to be able to address such problems with a non-invasive, beneficial retraining technique such as Sound Therapy, as opposed to having to turn to drugs for the lack of another solution.
DEET (1991). Australia’s language: The Australian Language and Literacy Policy. Australian Government Publishing Service.