Addressing Auditory Processing Deficits in Children and Adults

 Auditory Processing Deficit is thought to affect 3-5 students in every classroom. It does not go away with age. The auditory system arrives at a “set point” for processing between the ages of 2-4 years. Once that happens, cells are programmed to handle incoming auditory stimuli in the same manner, because that is most efficient. 

The neurologists explain “what fires together, wires together” and amazingly each little cell notices their specific sound and perks up when it comes into the brain, processing it in whatever manner was determined at set point.

Auditory Processing Deficit

If a toddler has chronic ear infections (which we know can take months to clear to the point that the viscosity in the middle ear fluid has returned to normal) and that is the time the brain decides to establish the set point, then that toddler will process sounds in the same sluggish “underwater” manner for all time, because that’s how they were hearing at the time the set point was established. No outgrowing it!


However, we can remediate or change how the brain handles incoming auditory stimuli. One way is by exposing the system to sounds that are slowed down and then upon successful identification of sounds in sequence, speeded up in increments of milliseconds or longer. The type of training used to “re-program” the set point will depend on the specific auditory deficit identified. Training has to be intensive (at least three times weekly) otherwise the brain will think of it as a novel event and not reconfigure.

Auditory processing has many facets and the specific deficit needs to be identified in order to select the correct training method. 

For example, if the problem is auditory figure ground deficit, that means the person actually has difficulty in selecting the auditory stimulus that is most important . . . the fan of the air conditioner or the person talking. These folks will not be able to go to a party and enjoy conversations because of the background noise and will opt to disengage because their system will quickly fatigue from trying to sort out one from the other. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (for Parents)Others may be suffering from binaural integration deficit where the two sides of the brain are not communicating information quickly enough and they can’t stay in the conversation, take notes, or connect visual information with language-based information in a timely way. 

The act of reading is all about integrating information from all over the brain in order to see the word accurately, know the individual sounds of the letters, sequence the order of the sounds, hold them long enough in auditory memory to blend them together and call out the word. This is something that is done in nanoseconds. Any delays, and the reader will possibly call out the wrong word or worse, just guess. That plays havoc with comprehension of what is read because it doesn’t make sense. So, a visualization of the story line can’t be made accurately which is what good readers – good processors – do in order to remember what they read.

Auditory Processing is a deficit that presents a lot like ADD/ADHD and those symptoms can be misdiagnosed by teachers and parents because they are not aware of the symptoms of Auditory Processing Deficit. 

When the auditory system becomes overloaded with having to try to sort out sounds over several hours of school or work, then the way to rest that system (since you can’t close your ears) is to “zone out” . . . during this time information is missed and the teacher or spouse notices and labels it ADD.

These are just a few examples of the auditory processing influence over learning. 

The good news is that brain plasticity is the reason we can reprogram the way information is processed. We know that learning and changing processing speeds can successfully be accomplished in persons up to age 70 and probably beyond. It’s pretty amazing! Being able to process faster allows us to accomplish more, live better, get the joke, communicate accurately, and be happy self-actualized contributing members of our society.

For more than 20 years, Encinitas Learning Center has helped hundreds of adults and children by providing pivotal programs that have been the turning point in their life and academic careers. Call today for a free 15-minute consultation with one of our expert staff.


We are here to support you! We have parent resources and live, online tutoring options from our expert staff. Call Lynda DETWEILER for more information 760-634-6886