Hearing evaluations often rule out a hearing loss of pitch or loudness and point toward a processing disorder of some type.
An auditory processing disorder (APD) is a deficit in neural processing of auditory stimuli that is not due to higher order language, cognitive or related factors, but can lead to language, learning, and communication difficulties.
It is the auditory equivalent of dyslexia. It often occurs with normal hearing sensitivity, or even heightened hearing sensitivity.
Symptoms of APD may include
deficits in some of the following:
1. Sound localization – the ability to know where a sound has occurred
2. Auditory discrimination – the ability to discriminate one sound from another
3. Auditory pattern recognition – the ability to determine similarities and differences in patterns of sounds
4. Temporal Aspects of Audition - the ability to process acoustic stimuli over time, to discern fast-changing signals, to sequence sounds and process stimuli by both ears.
5. Auditory Performance Decrements with Competing Acoustic Signals – the ability to perceive speech or other sounds when another signal is present. The other signal may be speech or noise.
6. Auditory Performance Decrements with Degraded Acoustic Signals – the inability to "fill in" the missing parts of a word
The prevalence is 3-5% of school-age children. It exists in adults, more so in adults over age sixty.
Adults and children may have APD, but children are typically referred because of school problems in reading, attending, not working up to potential, etc.
The goal of the tests is to determine just where in the auditory pathway there is a breakdown causing the person to have difficulty processing auditory information. Then, treatment strategies are designed to address the specific breakdown in the pathway. Some audiologists recommend waiting for neuro-maturation of the brain to occur, around age 12. Some are reluctant to see children prior to age 7, because the vast numbers of tests are normed only on children and adults age 7 and older. However, auditory processing is a life-long event; research in infant development has established the ability of infants to discriminate sounds. Early Intervention prior to a complete diagnosis at a later age may reduce the impact on the child and the family.
Should I See an Audiologist?
Many times hearing loss goes undetected for years before being diagnosed and properly treated.
You can take a short hearing self-test and see if you currently experience any conditions that are indications of hearing loss.