Children with auditory processing difficulties have challenges interpreting what they hear. They have intact outer, middle, inner ears and auditory nerves, which allow them to correctly hear the information, but the breakdown occurs beyond this level in the brainstem and brain.

The child may have difficulty perceiving speech or sounds in noise. They may have trouble discriminating between sounds and may mishear sounds. They may have difficulty associating a sound with other information so that they can’t attach meaning to the auditory information heard. For example, not correctly discriminating all the sounds in the word “dog”, may not allow the child to know that the word means, “an animal, a pet with fur that barks”. In challenging auditory situations, such as two people starting to talk to the child at the same time, the child may be unable to separate the messages to understand what each speaker said.

Children with auditory processing problems may take in information slowly and inaccurately. They may be at risk for “auditory overload” as their auditory system shuts down in periods of over-stimulation. Many children have difficulty with understanding language. They find it hard to understand directions, as they get longer and more linguistically complex.