Information for Parents on Auditory Processing Assessment
The purpose of an auditory processing evaluation is to identify children who have auditory-based communication and language learning problems. Auditory processing is defined as how an individual processes or interprets auditory stimuli. Children with auditory processing disorder experience auditory difficulties despite normal hearing acuity.
Classrooms are auditory/verbal environments with listening serving as the basis for learning. Children with auditory processing deficits may have communication or learning problems because of difficulties with listening tasks.
It is believed children with auditory processing disorder have a breakdown in auditory information as it travels from the hearing nerve to centers in the brain responsible for language learning. Children with normal auditory processing skills are able to understand speech in a wide range of listening conditions and can adapt to distorted auditory signals in day to day listening situations. Children with auditory processing delays have difficulty understanding speech presented in unfavorable acoustic conditions. Impaired listening skills contribute to poor academic performance for children with auditory processing disorders because such children as always trying to catch up with the ongoing stream of speech in the classroom.
Tests of auditory processing are designed to simulate listening tasks encountered in the real world, such as the normal classroom. These tests stress the auditory system by distorting, degrading, filtering or time altering the auditory signal. Children with auditory processing disorders will have difficulty comprehending an auditory message when distorted.
The auditory processing assessment includes a comprehensive audiologic evaluation to be sure your child’s hearing sensitivity is normal. The auditory processing battery consists of a series of recorded materials presented through earphones. The auditory processing assessment tests the auditory skills areas of: figure ground, maturation, closure, phonemic synthesis, and pitch patterning.
Auditory Figure Ground: is the ability to discriminate words in the presence of competing stimuli. This skill involves selective attention, or the ability to attend to a speaker and ignore background sounds. The inability to understand speech in the presence of background noise is one of the most common auditory complaints of children who have language and learning problems. The ability to pay attention and ignore distractions in the classroom is controlled by figure ground skills. This skill is assessed using recorded words presented with multi-talker background noise. The child is asked to repeat a list of words presented in background noise individually to each ear.
Auditory Maturation: is assessed using dichotic speech tasks. A dichotic task involves presenting different speech stimuli to each ear simultaneously including tasks of binaural integration and binaural separation.
Binaural Integration: skills involve combining or incorporating information being presented to each ear. This skill is assessed by presenting two numbers simultaneously to each ear. The child is asked to repeat all four numbers heard.
Binaural Separation: skills involve attending to the information coming in one ear while ignoring information coming in simultaneously to the other ear. This skill is assessed by presenting two sentences at the same time, one to each ear. The child is asked to repeat a sentence heard in one ear and ignore what is heard in the other ear.
Auditory Closure: is the ability to perceive the “whole” message when parts are missing. Auditory closure skills are necessary for comprehending speech presented in less than ideal listening conditions, such as speech that is compromised by a poor acoustic environment, a rapid speaking rate, an accent of dialect, or a speaker with his or her back turned. Auditory closure skills are assessed using filtered words. The words are filtered to reduce their high frequency content. High frequencies are necessary for consonant recognition. Filtering causes the words to sound “muffled” to the listener. This is considered a test of auditory closure as the child is required to identify the whole word although part of the word is acoustically missing.
Phonemic Synthesis: is a measure of phonemic decoding abilities. The Phonemic Synthesis Test is sensitive to auditory processing difficulties for speech sounds (phonemes). A series of words are broken down into their individual phonemes and the child is asked to blend the sounds together to form a meaningful word. The Phonemic Synthesis task requires good phonemic decoding skills or phonemic awareness. It requires recognizing the sounds heard and blending them with previous sounds heard.
Pitch Patterning: skills are assessed using frequency pattern tests. Performance on the frequency pattern tests depends on several central auditory processes including contour recognition (dependant upon pitch discrimination and sequencing), interhemispheric transfer, linguistic labeling, and memory. Pitch patterning skills are assessed by asking the child to listen to a series of three tones and then hum the sequence or verbally label the tonal patterns as “high” or “low”.
For each of the above skill areas, your child’s scores will be compared with age appropriate norms. If your child’s performance falls outside what is normal for his/her age we will offer strategies to help remediate and improve function in the deficient skill area(s). We will also offer strategies to help your child compensate for the weak auditory skills areas. Once we score and interpret the test findings we will provide a complete report of the results including a breakdown of test scores and activities for remediation if so indicated.
For more information or to make an appointment for an auditory processing evaluation, contact us at 800-742-7551.