• Judith Kamau

Auditory Processing Disorder in Children

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Auditory Processing Disorder - What the brain does with what it hears - See the impact on children.


  • Hearing basically takes place in the ear within the cochlea.

  • Auditory Processing is really what the brain does with what it hears.

  • Auditory Processing in children varies greatly

  • Glitches in the brain prevent them from processing auditory information accurately

  • Poor listening accuracy is often confused with attention (ADD) and other issuesissues

SCRIPT of Interview on Auditory Processing Disorder

So, Devon we're talking about auditory processing disorder I'm thinking about a classroom, you've got lots of students you think there's lots of brains in there listening. Is listening different to hearing and processing, how does that work?

Well hearing is really, we think about hearing acuity the very softest sound you can hear across a range of frequencies and hearing basically takes place in the ear within the cochlea.

Right, so processing is something more than just hearing?

Absolutely processing is then what happens to that signal when it leaves the ear and has to travel through the auditory pathway within the brain to the auditory cortex where the final processing takes place, so auditory processing is really what the brain does with what it hears.

So, is it likely that you might have a whole bunch of students who look like they're listening but there's just nothing actually going through that auditory cortex?

I would say probably there's something going on but the processing may not be happening effectively and there are different aspects of processing that can be problematic in different students.

Right, so it sounds like the brain is actually really working quite hard to process what it hears can you expand on that?

Yes, well the brain does have to work very hard and particularly in a classroom. One of the major difficulties with children with auditory processing disorder and if I can just give a definition of auditory processing disorder, would be thought of is when something goes wrong with what the brain does with what it hears and there are various aspects to that. One of the most common difficulties for students with auditory processing disorder is hearing in a noisy environment just like in a classroom.

Yeah, well there's plenty of that going on I can assure you. So, from experience, having been in a classroom sometimes you know it's the classic thing I wonder if I can hear myself think, so someone who actually has the disorder but they might actually be experiencing quite a lot of stress?

Absolutely. And you'll often hear parents say that these students are exhausted at the end of a school day because it's taking all of their energy to listen, they have to work so hard to listen to keep listening to what the teacher is saying.

So that the art of actually listening, then becomes not only difficult and frustrating, but then that's something almost like a skill that poor student has to work on perhaps harder than somebody else.

Very much so and also working harder at it really doesn't help them very much because there are glitches in the brain that is preventing them from processing accuracy. So it's like when a teacher says to a student just work harder if the mechanisms aren't there for something to be processed telling them to work harder doesn't help.

So, we're going to cover this next question a little bit more in further videos. But

I'm assuming then that someone who has auditory processing disorder might actually be identified in a classroom, perhaps by their behavior or their facial expressions they might look a bit stressed out.

Very, yes, that could be a factor. One of the most common issues would be when they seem to be not paying attention or where they lose attention after a time auditory processing disorder can often be confused with an attention deficit. But when we look at our students with auditory processing, we find that they only have a problem maintaining attention when it's a listening situation it's like the brain gets overloaded with auditory information.

Right, okay. So, what you're suggesting is that something that we could be looking at is purely a behavioral problem is actually a lot deeper than that? Absolutely

Wow! And so are we talking about the fact that maybe some of these things could be misdiagnosed like a kid could say look I've got an ADD or you know they're taking pills whereas actually if you think about it a little bit more deeply, I mean I'm assuming that clinicians or doctors or whoever would have done their proper analysis but is it possible that these things can be misdiagnosed?

Absolutely can be misdiagnosed and it's only when you've got a very informed person doing the assessment who's very aware of auditory processing disorder that you able to make those fine distinctions whether it is auditory processing or an attention difficulty. That being said, though there are students who have both conditions and that's not uncommon.

Okay, so I'm just wondering just for the sake of a bit of a graphic here does the auditory processing happen in a particular part of your head can you point to it like is it in the front or the back or whereas where's it happening?

Basically, when the signal leaves the ear the peripheral hearing system the cochlea from there it has the signal has to travel along the auditory nerve through a pathway through the brain through the brainstem and up into the auditory cortex which is basically in your left temporal lobe. So that is where language and speech sounds are processed right, so things can go wrong anywhere along that pathway.

Wow, so it's quite a complex path, there's the way I'm hearing it is that there could be many places where there could be a dysfunction or a disorder which could perhaps compound the problem.

That's right. The research into this really began with looking at adults who had a brain injury either through stroke or a tumor or a head injury where they lost a function an auditory processing function, so they could look at that part of the brain and they could look at the function that was lost and say well that part of the brain is responsible for that function. But over time we've taken those same tests that came out of adult research to say well in a child they don't have an injury to the brain but parts of those brain pathways are not developed or not functioning as they should to be able to process effectively.

©2019 by Neuron Learning