There is more to listening than just being able to hear.
Listening is when we consciously attend to sound. Listening skills must be learned.
Babies learn to recognise sounds and tell the difference between similar sounds and locate where a sound comes from. They learn to identify sounds against background noise and fill in the gaps when sounds are missing, and to remember sounds and patterns of sounds.
What could you expect to see if your child has poor auditory processing?
Babies may be quiet, use only limited sounds and may respond to adults only when they are looking directly at a face. They might not look to see where a sound is coming from.
When they are a little older they may not respond to their name as often as other babies or try new sounds or imitate vehicle and animal noises.
Young children might have difficulty learning to talk and making clear, accurate sounds and even remembering words (vocabulary). Sentence structure (grammar) can be inaccurate. They are likely to use general words instead of the specific names of actions or objects, talking about ‘stuff’ or ‘the thing’. They might have trouble following directions or be easily distracted.
Pre-schoolers won’t accurately memorise words for songs, and struggle to remember information like the months of the year or their address. They will not be able to follow multiple instructions.
When they get to school they will not cope well in the classroom. They will be the children that ‘tune out’ or have poor attention skills or look around to see what all the other children are doing, be easily distracted or ask for directions to be repeated. They often have learning difficulties at some level. Very bright children can mask these symptoms for years, compensating in other ways. As school places more complex demands on them they will lose their confidence and struggle.
They probably find it hard to listen against background noise. The tune in their voice (the prosody) might sounds flat or monotone, and they find it hard to interpret other peoples’ tone of voice.
Children with auditory processing deficits often have difficulty in acquiring literacy. Blending and segmenting sounds into words is extremely difficult without explicit teaching. As reading demands become more complex they struggle, and unless reading is automatic and efficient, reading comprehension suffers.
This is extremely frustrating for parents and distressing for children.