What is Auditory Processing?

What is Auditory Processing?

Auditory processing is a term used to describe what happens when your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you. Humans hear when energy that we recognize as sound travels through the ear and is changed into electrical information that can be interpreted by the brain. The “disorder” part of auditory processing disorder means that something is adversely affecting the processing or interpretation of the information.

Children with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even though the sounds themselves are loud and clear. For example, the request “Tell me how a chair and a couch are alike” may sound to a child with APD like “Tell me how a couch and a chair are alike.” It can even be understood by the child as “Tell me how a cow and a hair are alike.”

What skills are affected by auditory processing disorder?

Experts agree that children can learn to work around challenges they face when dealing with APD. But APD can present lifelong difficulties if it isn’t diagnosed and managed. Here are some skills that are commonly affected:

  • Communication: Children with APD may not speak clearly. They may drop the ends of words and syllables that aren’t emphasized. They might confuse similar sounds (free instead of three) long after their peers have learned to correct themselves.
  • Academics: Kids with APD often have trouble developing reading, spelling and writing skills. Learning vowels and developing phonemic awareness—the building blocks for reading—can be especially difficult. Understanding spoken instructions is challenging. Kids with APD tend to perform better in classes that don’t rely heavily on listening.
  • Social skills: Kids with APD have trouble telling stories or jokes. They may avoid conversations with peers because it’s hard for them to process what’s being said and think of an appropriate response.


Children with APD usually have at least some of the following symptoms:

  • Can find it hard to follow spoken directions, especially multi-step instructions
  • Say “huh?” or “what?” often
  • Have trouble with reading and spelling, which require the ability to process and interpret sounds
  • May struggle with orally told math problems
  • May have difficulty following conversations in noise
  • May have difficulty following conversations in noise
  • Find it hard to learn songs or nursery rhymes
  • Have trouble remembering details of what was read or heard