Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing is a complex area of Audiology and Speech Pathology. The diagnosis and management of Auditory Processing Disorders continually evolves using the latest research from within Audiology, Speech Pathology, Psychology and Neurology fields.

What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing (AP) refers to “what we do with what we hear”. How we detect, decode and process information in a meaningful way.

An Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is an “inability to make optimal use of what we hear”, i.e. there is a delay in development of, or dysfunction along, the central auditory nervous system affecting the child’s ability to process information they hear. This can affect a child in many ways both academically and in their social interaction with their peers.

Standard hearing assessments have significant limitations in determining a child’s functional listening ability in everyday life. Children with auditory processing difficulties present with normal hearing using these standard tests, however once listening conditions become more challenging (e.g. listening to speech in background noise, identifying subtle information in speech required to accurately process information etc.) their true listening abilities are identified.

In fact, some audiologists prefer the term Central Auditory Processing Disorder because of the significant role the central auditory nervous system plays in processing auditory information.

Typical behaviours of a child with an APD

Children with auditory processing difficulties typically present with several of the following:

  • Easily distracted by background noise

  • Struggle to follow conversations or instructions involving more than one task

  • Perform better when shown (visual cues) than told (verbal)

  • Often look confused, unsure of next step

  • Forgetful – unable to retain information

  • Often ask for information to be repeated

  • Better listening one-to-one than in a group

Is APD a definitive diagnosis or does it coexist with other disorders?

An APD may present in isolation, but more often coexists with other developmental disorders. This is not surprising given the central auditory nervous system is interconnected with many other processes within our complex neurological system. It is important to acknowledge that APD is not the result of cognitive, higher-order language or learning difficulties, however, may contribute towards these disorders.

Who should diagnose a child with an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Given the above, the only professional able to diagnose a child with an APD is a Paediatric Audiologist with specialised training in this field. Consideration must be given to the child’s presenting difficulties, medical history, family history and overall development. Children must be at least 6 years of age. Assessment and management often involve a multidisciplinary team.

Early detection and intervention are vital to make optimal use of a child’s critical periods of development (neuroplasticity). Explicit training and exposure to auditory stimuli can make significant improvements in the central auditory nervous system.

What can be done if a child is diagnosed with an APD?

Considering the complexity of the auditory system, management programs should include: Explicit Auditory Training, Environmental Modifications at home and in the classroom and Compensatory Strategies. Management is tailored specifically for the child’s presenting difficulties and results from their assessment.

Little Ears and Little Speech has the unique ability to combine the expertise of audiologists and speech pathologists to develop an individualised programme focusing on your child’s needs.

Auditory Training: explicit and intensive auditory training continues to show the most improvement in developing a child’s auditory processing abilities and strengthening their areas of difficulty. Little Ears & Little Speech specialise in auditory training. See more.

Environmental Modifications: aim to increase clarity and improve access to auditory information. This often includes listening devices (Personal Listening Devices or Classroom Soundfield Systems) to enhance the signal (person talking) and overcome the effects of background noise and distance. Further information available.

Compensatory Strategies: training children in metacognitive skills so that they can recognise difficult listening situations and be proactive using strategies to accommodate and improve their listening. These strategies can also be applied to many other areas of learning and increase a child’s motivation and self-confidence.


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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