Auditory Processing: How sound affects the way kids learn and behave

Does your child appear to have trouble hearing you although you know his hearing is okay?

Does he struggle to follow multi-step directions?

Does he seem to become hyperactive or excessively clingy in noisy environments?

Does it seem hard for him to respond to his name being called until you physically stop him and have him look at you?

Does he cover his ears or have an excessively negative reaction to a sudden loud noise?

Your child could have poor auditory processing skills.

What is auditory processing?

Auditory processing is a function of the ear that helps us to:

  • Attend to important sounds
  • Discriminate between different sounds
  • Recognise or comprehend different sounds
  • Protect the ear from loud sounds
  • Dampen down unnecessary background noise and ‘tune in’ to important sounds i.e. the voice of a parent or teacher

Indicators of poor auditory processing can include:

  • Inconsistent responsiveness to speech
  • Having difficulty with discriminating between similar-sounding speech sounds
  • Having difficulty listening or paying attention in noisy environments 
  • Becoming clingy or appearing hyperactive in noisy environments
  • Struggling to remember following multi-step instructions

The following environments may prove problematic for a child with auditory processing problems:

  • Restaurants
  • Supermarkets
  • Public swimming pools
  • Classrooms
  • School halls
  • Playground

If your child has poor auditory processing skills, it  can negatively impact on:

  • Attention
  • Expressive and receptive language
  • Reading, writing and spelling
  • Ability to take notes

What should you do if your child has these issues?

  • Have a hearing test to rule out any hearing loss
  • Seek an auditory processing assessment with an Audiologist
  • Seek an assessment with an Occupational Therapist who uses sensory processing techniques in their therapy

What can be done to help children who struggle with auditory processing problems?

  • Environmental alterations can have a positive impact on your child’s ability to process auditory input. For example, moving to the front of the class (or as close to the teacher as possible) may help the child to process the instructions given by the teacher.
  • Changing how instructions and information are delivered to your child can help a great deal. Here are some simple tips that can help:

       o   Touch the child firmly and in a way they can predict in order to get their
attention before giving verbal instructions/information.

o   Reinforce the instructions/information with visuals or written instructions so the
child does not have to rely on their auditory ability as much

o    Remove as many auditory background noises/distractions as possible when the
child is expected to sit, listen, learn, read or write. Turn off the television or radio;
have siblings engaging in quiet play elsewhere or allow the affected child to have
a quiet, private place in which to work.

Therapeutic Listening     

Therapeutic Listening is an auditory therapy that may help to improve your child’s auditory processing skills. Find out more supporting your child’s auditory processing with Therapeutic Listening in the downloadable fact sheet below or contact Kids First on (02) 9938 5419 to make an appointment to discuss your child’s needs with one of our Occupational Therapists.

Dagney Hopp
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
2014 Kids First Children’s Services

Free Fact Sheet: Therapeutic Listening

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