Auditory Processing Disorder: The Breakdown

“Auditory Processing is what the brain does with what the ear hears.” Jack Katz 

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing occurs before meaning is applied with Language Processing. Children diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have difficulty receiving, organizing and processing auditory information. The world may feel like a cell phone call with the signal cutting in and out. APD may present itself differently in individuals, but there are three common problem areas where children may experience frustration.

 Sound Discrimination Problems 
-A child continuing to say “free” instead of “three”
-Words running together and dropped syllables

Auditory Memory Problems
-Difficulty memorizing numbers and facts
-Verbal Instructions may be harder to remember 

Language Processing Problems 
-Trouble understanding what’s being asked of you 
-Difficulty holding conversations with friends


Primary Auditory Processing Skills

Auditory Figure Ground – Listening in noise/Ignoring background noise – automatically determining relevant vs. irrelevant auditory information in a listening environment without purposeful effort

Auditory Closure – Cleaning up the incoming message if it is missing parts, distorted, accented or coming in too rapidly

Dichotic Listening – Coordinating and synchronizing the information coming in from both ears

Temporal Processing – Understanding tonal differences in speech and discreet timing and frequency separations between similar sounds in language (discrimination)


Evaluation and Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder

From birth through childhood, various hearing screenings are conducted at routine wellness checks. If a “red flag” is identified, a referral should be made for more comprehensive testing by an Audiologist.

Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) includes comprehensive testing and requires a controlled listening environment (sound booth) with recorded
materials designed to target the primary skills individually.

Testing should be performed by a licensed audiologist with specific expertise/training in APD.

An APD evaluation will include a peripheral hearing evaluation and a central hearing evaluation.

When should APD testing begin?

Many believe 7 years is the youngest chronological age for testing because of either ease of testing or availability of tests with reliable norms.


Age is just a number! There are several diagnostic tools available for sure with kids under 7. If you have concerns about your child or a student, do not wait to talk about them with your doctor until age 7!

Other obstacles that often exclude APD listeners from testing

-Attention deficits
-Low cognition/IQ
-Younger than 7 years of age
-Poor motivation
-Autism/Behavior Disorders/Non-verbal Disorders

Many of these characteristics automatically exclude children from APD testing because they may compromise the reliability of the test results, but there are effective strategies for eliminating these obstacles.


Managing Auditory Processing Disorder

Early intervention is KEY! Early intervention of APD opens pathways for later developing skills to develop naturally.

Types of APD Management

Classroom/environmental modifications
Compensation strategies
Direct intervention – auditory therapy
Indirect interventions (i.e. with other disciplines such as music!)
Why does Auditory Therapy Work?
Auditory therapy is effective regardless of its cause due to the existence of neuroplasticity—the human brain is designed to build new networks based on the types of external stimulation provided/exposed to.

Types of Auditory Therapy

-Clinical Therapy
-Home-Based Therapy
-Computer Based Therapy

Elements of a Successful Auditory Therapy Program

-Direct listening activities that address primary skills
-Addressing phonological and memory deficits
-Allowing time between therapy sessions for neurological rewiring
-Providing home exercises to support and reinforce clinical experiences
-Providing individualized treatment, one-on-one


What Research Says About the Benefits of Music Lessons

Music experiences that activate and alter a region of the brain may improve performance in other tasks supported by that area, much in the same way cross training boosts athletic performance.

~Music Lessons Boost Verbal Memory, Jennifer Warner, July 2003 


Researchers found that not only did the brains of young, musically trained children respond differently to hearing music, but musical training also appeared to improve the children’s memories over the course of a year.

~Music Lessons Boosts Kids’ Brains, Study review by Louise Chang, MD, September 2006


“This research demonstrates that community music programs can literally ‘remodel’ children’s brains in a way that improves sound processing, which could lead to better
learning and language skills,” – lead author Nina Kraus

~Music Lessons May Help Bridge ’Achievement Gap,’ Robert Preidt & Nina Kraus, Sept 2014


Researchers found older adults who took music lessons as a child performed better on memory and brain function tests than those who never learned how to read music or play an instrument.

~Music Lessons as Child May Keep Aging Minds Sharp, Jennifer Warner, April 2011


How a music therapist can help

Sound Discrimination 

-Choosing songs to sing with repetitive singing parts that target specific syllables
E.g.,: Brown Eyed Girl: “Sha la la la”

-Using song lyrics and the melody as a way to practice speaking full words and not dropping syllables 


Auditory Memory 

– Helping a student put their phone number or address to a song! 


Language Processing 

-Facilitating music and movement interventions with simple commands such as “touch your head,” “stomp three times,” “freeze” or instrument songs with commands such as “shake up high,” “play the drum with your quiet fingers.”


In conclusion

A music therapist always strives to work on skil
ls IN a music therapy session that can be transferred OUT of the music therapy session.

If you would like to learn more about music therapy and see if it may be a good fit for your family, contact us today for a free phone consultation! (Toll-free: 877-794-5037)


Primary Source: Dr .Christa Reeves, Au.D.,  of Little Listeners

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