Central auditory processing
Central auditory processing is about the way the brain uses the information which
enters each ear and will determine how well people can listen. The doctor should
always be consulted if there is any possibility that a child is not hearing adequately.
Problems here are relatively unusual, although many children have a history of hearing
loss and grommets may have been inserted when they were younger.
Most people with central auditory processing difficulties hear perfectly well. However,
people who were periodically deaf in early childhood as a result of blocked ears
and ear infections are very likely to have listening difficulties, because the deafness
may have prevented early auditory processing development from proceeding normally.
Central auditory processing problems are almost never picked up because there is
no mainstream testing available. If a child is often in trouble for not listening
at school and a conventional hearing test shows no problem, the conclusion may well
be that the child is being naughty and choosing not to listen. This is seldom the
Problems in this area include hyperacute or hypersensitive (painful) hearing, a
slow speed of auditory processing, poor sound discrimination, poor sound localization,
poor pitch discrimination and disruption to auditory reflexes.
makes it very hard for people to concentrate.
Their hearing is so acute that they are easily distracted by background sounds.
Children with hypersensitive hearing are easily upset by loud noises and will often
react by putting their hands over their ears.
A slow speed of processing
is another common problem. In this case
a new piece of information will be presented before there has been time to fully
process the previous one. To listen accurately under these circumstances is mentally
tiring and concentration can only be held for a short time. A child with these difficulties
will muddle similar speech sounds such as b/d and k/t. This can also lead to ‘cocktail
party effect’, where it is very difficult to concentrate on the voice of the person
you want to listen to when there is any significant background noise. People who
suffer from this problem will generally be easily distracted.
is the ability of the brain to take the sounds
received from each ear and combine them. This requires brain integration and if
someone has problems with auditory integration they are likely to have a slow speed
of processing and difficulties with comprehension. They may also be forced to listen
with just one ear, which may make them excessively literal if they rely on the right
ear, or over-emotional if they rely on the left ear.
Some people have difficulty locating the source of a sound
This can make it hard for them to focus on a speaker when they are listening in
a group situation, particularly if they are not sitting where they can see the speaker
all the time. Sound localisation requires good auditory integration.
Problems with pitch discrimination
can lead to difficulties in
recognizing the intonation in speech, which is one of the ways in which meaning
is conveyed. This in turn may lead to poor or delayed comprehension. It can also
affect the inflexion in someone’s speech.
The functioning of the auditory system is easily disrupted by stress. This can affect
the normal functioning of auditory reflexes
, such as the middle
ear reflex. This is our “pneumatic drill” reflex and turns down the volume automatically
to protect our ears if we are exposed to a loud noise. If this is triggered by stress
a child may become quite deaf in certain circumstances, which will make it hard
for them to listen effectively.
A very high proportion of children diagnosed with behaviour problems in the classroom
have undiagnosed central auditory processing difficulties. It’s not that they
listen but they can’t
listen in classroom conditions.
Central auditory processing difficulties are dependent on mature functioning in
the olfactory, vestibular and reflex systems, good muscle tone and maturity in differentiation,
lateralisation and brain integration.