Auditory Processing Disorder

What is Auditory Processing (AP)?

Auditory processing refers to how well we detect, discriminate and process auditory (verbal) information. It is often thought of as the brainwork of hearing, or in other terms “what we do with what we hear”. It follows that an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) refers to an inability to make optimal use of what we hear. Children diagnosed with an APD typically have normal hearing and normal intelligence, however, have difficulties listening, particularly in the presence of background noise.

A brief explanation from our Director and Principal Audiologist Nicole Eglinton on Auditory Processing Disorders:

What behaviours are typical for that of a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Behaviours typical for that of a child with an auditory processing disorder include:

  • frequent misunderstandings
  • difficulties remembering and following instructions
  • difficulties listening in the presence of background noise (e.g. the classroom).
  • poor organisational skills and rarely complete tasks
  • respond slowly or inappropriately to questions
  • generally perform well 1:1
  • easily distracted
  • unable to maintain their attention for appropriate amounts of time
  • often exhausted and emotional at the end of a school day

A child with an auditory processing disorder (APD) is unable to take advantage of incidental learning and often requires information to be repeated. They may confuse similar sounding speech sounds, have difficulties with spelling and reading, and show slow progress at school.

As a result of the above behaviours some, but not all, children will have difficulties progressing academically. For example, a child with an APD may have not heard the complete instructions for a task and rather than spending time practicing the specific skill in the classroom they spend most of their time trying to work out what they are required to do.

How will my child’s auditory processing skills be assessed?

At Little Ears the assessment of your child’s auditory processing abilities is carried out over two appointments. The primary reason for this is to ensure it is appropriate to assess your child’s auditory processing abilities. Secondly, by splitting your child’s assessment into two appointments we aim to minimise the effects that poor attention and poor motivation may have on your child’s results.

Image-1Prior to your child’s first appointment you will be sent a Parent Questionnaire and Teacher Questionnaire to complete. These questionnaires provide valuable information regarding your child’s listening and other behaviours, assist in determining whether an auditory processing assessment is appropriate for your child, and if so what tests would be the most appropriate to administer. Occasionally it may be recommended that your child be assessed by another medical / allied health professional prior to continuing.

The assessment involves a number of auditory tests (listening games) that target different auditory processing skills. Your child may find some of the listening games challenging and small breaks may be required. There is no invasive testing involved in an auditory processing assessment. In fact some children find the listening games fun!

The initial appointment takes between 45 minutes to 1hour.

The second appointment takes between 1.5 hours to 2 hours depending on whether your child requires any breaks. Your child’s results are discussed in detail at this appointment. Following you will be provided with a comprehensive written report highlighting your child’s auditory strengths and weaknesses, along with management advice and recommendations.

What if my child is found to have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

Little Ears-103An Auditory Processing assessment will highlight your child’s auditory strengths and areas for improvement. Management advice and recommendations made are highly dependent on your child’s results. Little Ears offers a number of management options in house, and will also refer to other allied health professionals for opinion and/or management as required. Little Ears is autonomous and not aligned with any particular health professional or educational specialist. This ensures the most appropriate referrals are made for your child.

For example, for children found to have poor spatial processing skills (one of the auditory skills often assessed) listening training using a computer based CD may be recommended along with the trial of a listening device for use in the classroom.

Does my child need a written referral to have an Auditory Processing Assessment?

Parents, medical professionals, allied health professionals and teachers may all refer a child for an Auditory Processing assessment where the child is

  • at least 6 years of age (limited testing available at 6 years of age, more comprehensive testing available once a child turns 7 years of age)
  • there are no known/suspected concerns regarding the child’s intelligence

By using a two stage appointment process any children found to be inappropriate to assess for an Auditory Processing disorder will be identified at their first appointment. Formal written referral is not necessary.

Little Ears welcomes any enquiries and would be delighted to provide information training / professional development workshops on request.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can children outgrow an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Listening skills develop as the auditory system matures. We expect the auditory system to mature at around 12 years of age. Therefore, as in all areas of development some children are slower than others to meet developmental milestones. A child is diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) if their auditory processing skills are significantly behind those of their age peers on at least two of the tests administered. For some children their auditory processing skills will improve with age and for others they will never improve to what is considered a normal range. For this reason if your child has been found to have an APD, review of their auditory processing skills is generally recommended in 12 – 18 months.

Are there more children diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder than there used to be?

Certainly there has been an increase in the number of children diagnosed with an Auditory Processing Disorder, however rather than this reflecting an increase in prevalence this may reflect:

  • increased awareness of auditory processing and how difficulties can significantly affect a child’s ability to listen and learn in the classroom and progress academically
  • greater availability of testing
  • increased research in the assessment and management of auditory processing disorders
  • a change in classroom environments (i.e. poor classroom acoustics (hard surfaces and flooring, open-plan classes of large numbers of children), creative seating where children may not always have good visual access to written information and change seat regularly etc.) No longer are classrooms “kids-on-grids”.
Who should diagnose a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder?

A qualified Audiologist is the recognised professional to diagnose a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder. An Audiologist has a University Master’s Degree in Audiology and is specifically trained to perform comprehensive hearing assessments and has an in depth understanding of one’s auditory system. A number of allied health professionals may screen a child for auditory processing difficulties and where concerns are identified will refer to an audiologist for definitive audiological assessment.

Little Ears incorporates All Ears AudiologyGo to All Ears

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COVID-19 Update

At All Ears & Speech our priority is to ensure the health and well-being of our team and valued clients. We understand the significant impact the Coronavirus is having on everyone and that this is one of the biggest challenges we have all faced. We are in this together and our thoughts and best wishes are with you and your families during this time.

Whilst our practice activities have slowed significantly, our team remains able to assist you with your hearing and speech healthcare. We have reduced our clinical hours, further strengthened our already exemplary hygiene practices and our Speech Pathologists are now primarily providing services online using TeleHealth. 

From the 1st April 2020, we have put the following additional safeguards in place to ensure everyone’s well-being and that our business can continue to look after you and your family.

  • Our administration team will work remotely during the day and attend clinic outside normal clinic hours. This is to minimise contact between clinicians, clients and our admin team. Should at any stage someone be exposed to Coronavirus our risk of transmitting the infection to others is significantly reduced. Kindly leave a message on our answering machine and rest assured we will return your call as soon as possible

  • For NEW CLIENTS – we are here to help and answer any questions you may have regarding your hearing, your child’s hearing or your child’s speech and language development. We can offer initial consults over the phone or via TeleHealth (videoconferencing) to assist. We can then determine whether we need to see you in person urgently or whether we can provide you with services via TeleHealth or other resources to help you in the interim. Again, please leave a message on our answering machine or email us on and we will get back to you asap.

  • For clients with URGENT REFERRALS from Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists or other medical practitioners we will see you should you pass our COVID19 questionnaire. As per government regulations we will not see anyone who has: 

    1. travelled interstate or overseas without self-isolating for 14 days

    2. anyone unwell (fever, sore throat, respiratory difficulties)

    3. anyone who has been in contact with someone who has travelled or who may have been exposed to COVID19

We will be offering complimentary online resources and short videos to improve children’s listening, learning, speech and language development during this time. 

For our adult clients we will be providing auditory training resources to make the most of your devices, and lots of information about hearing loss and the various technologies available. Our team are excited to be updating and sharing these resources with you. As always, any feedback, or suggestions on topics that you would like covered will be warmly received.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our clients for your emails, phone calls and supportive comments during this time. These have been so encouraging and brightened our day. Our clients will continue to remain our priority and we can not thank you enough for choosing us as your service provider. 

On behalf of the team at All Ears & Speech please stay safe and healthy.

Nicole Eglinton

Proud Director of the best team of Audiologists & Speech Pathologist in SA