Auditory Processing Disorders:
We Hear with Our Ears, but We Listen With Our Brain.
Does your child have trouble hearing in noisy places? Say ‘huh’ or ‘what frequently? Have difficulty following directions? Is your child struggling in school? If you answered yes, it is possible that an underlying Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is the cause. An Auditory Processing Disorder is an inability to recognize, discriminate, and understand a spoken message especially in noisy environments.
The ears are simply the vehicles for transmitting auditory information up to the brain. The central auditory system is responsible for many functions including filtering out background noise, decoding certain sounds, and processing the timing aspects of speech. Each one of these centers must work efficiently and quickly for the brain to properly process incoming auditory information. When one of these functions is compromised, it may result in increased difficulty processing auditory cues in absence of any hearing loss.
Auditory Processing Disorders have been documented in children and adult populations. It is a condition that may arise from genetic predisposition, aging of the central auditory system, neurologic disorders, Traumatic Brain Injuries/concussions, and a history of ear-related issues. This disorder can often coexist with other conditions including but not limited to speech and language delays, sensory-integration issues, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Through case history questionnaires, parent interviews, review of academic reports, and diagnostic testing, our audiologists are able to provide a differential diagnosis regarding your child’s condition. Testing for Auditory Processing Disorders is not recommended prior to the age of 7 due to the lack of standardized evaluations and immaturity of the auditory system. However, if you have concerns for your child before this age, limited testing can be completed to determine if your child is at risk.
What Treatments Are Available for Auditory Processing Disorders?
Good news – the brain is plastic. If your child has been diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder, there are a variety of viable therapies to strengthen the identified auditory weaknesses. Think of it as taking your ears to the gym!
Once a diagnosis has been made, our audiologists will make recommendations tailored to your child’s needs. Through targeted formal and informal training, environmental modifications, and compensatory techniques, your child can develop stronger auditory skills and learn different options for listening in less than ideal situations such as a noisy classroom. At the Hearing and Tinnitus Center, we offer a variety of options for Auditory Processing Disorders including:
- Mild Gain Amplification: In certain cases, mild amplification may be recommended for a child with auditory processing difficulties. The primary benefit of using this approach is enhanced speech perception with a device that can be used consistently throughout the day, even after the school day has ended. Additionally, there is noise-reduction technology to help your child when listening in noisy places such as the lunchroom or recess!
- FM-System Technology: Children often benefit from using FM-systems in the classroom because this setup increases the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). By enhancing the teacher’s voice and delivering the signal directly to the child’s ears, the sound is more clear and is less compromised by distracting environmental sounds.
- Fast ForWord: An interactive auditory training program appropriate for ages K-12th grade. This program focuses on phonological processing, auditory decoding, temporal processing, and more! It has been used in populations with Auditory Processing Disorders, Autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, English as a second language learners, and struggling readers. The program is overseen by one of our skilled audiologists who will provide feedback to the parent regarding their child’s strides within the program. Pre/post testing will be completed to document the benefit of the program.
- CAPDOTs: This auditory training program is designed primarily for listeners with identified dichotic listening difficulties. Dichotic listening refers to our ability to hear from both ears simultaneously. When this skill is compromised, it may impact our ability to hear in this noisy world. Similar to Fast ForWord, this program is overseen by the audiologist and pre/post testing will be completed to document progress.