What is Auditory Processing?

“How well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain understands what the ear tells it.”  Dr. Frank Musiek


Learning Tree specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of Auditory Processing Deficits (APD).  Auditory processing deficits have received national attention due ground-breaking research regarding the role auditory processing deficits play in language-based learning disabilities, primarily dyslexia.

Not only is auditory processing of paramount importance in dyslexia, it is the basis of language comprehension and oral expression as well as the written forms of language; reading and written language.

Learning Tree diagnoses the following areas of Auditory Processing:

  1. Auditory Processing Speed
  2. Auditory Discrimination and Closure
  3. Auditory Integration and Suppression
  4. Temporal Patterning


Auditory Processing Speed refers to how fast the individual can process auditory information.  Slow auditory processing speeds can be noticed when an individual has a slow response rate. In other words, the individual responds very slowly to auditory information.  Slow auditory processing can affect the ability to “keep up” with conversations, resulting in “not hearing” or “mishearing” the full message.  These important pieces of information have not been processed.  Difficulties with auditory discrimination, auditory closure, phonemic processing, listening in noisy environments and receptive vocabulary are often seen with slow auditory processing speed.


Auditory Discrimination is the ability to process phonemes (speech sounds) and determine if they are the same or different.  Therefore, Auditory Closure (discrimination between words) is important in vocabulary development and sentence comprehension.  The individual must “hear” and process the speech sounds rapidly and clearly for accurate encoding in the brain.  With an auditory discrimination deficit the individual encodes a “fuzzy” or incorrect word.  Auditory discrimination deficits manifest as language disabilities, problems with phonemic processing, word decoding and spelling, as well as vocabulary problems.  The universal problem seen with all types of auditory processing deficits involve trouble listening to a target speaker when there is background noise.  Often slow auditory processing speed is noted as well.  Children that have chronic otitis media (ear infections) are at risk for auditory discrimination and closure difficulties.


Auditory Integration is the ability to integration multisensory information.  Auditory integration involves the integration of both the right and the left hemisphere.  Between the two hemispheres there is a pathway (corpus collasum) that connects both sides.  The left side of the brain is specialized for language and analytical information.  The right side processes the big picture, main idea, visual construction, and art as well as the melodic elements of speech and language.  The pathway must mature with age to integrate and process auditory, visual , and kinesthetic information simultaneously. Very young children with auditory integration deficits are often first identified as having sensori-integration deficits as well as speech and language delay. Delayed maturation or disorders of integration may manifest as difficulties with language comprehension, learning letter names and sounds, word decoding, reading comprehension, written language as well difficulties with auditory working memory.


Temporal Patterning is primarily a right hemisphere function necessary for the interpretation of intent or “manner” of the verbal message.  Temporal patterning is the melody and “tone” of the message.  It helps determine “how” the message is delivered.  Is it a question? Is the speaker angry or happy? Is this a joke? Temporal patterning deficits can be seen in individuals that cannot “read” another person, may not understand jokes or how others are feeling. Individuals with this type of deficit can have social communication problems due to the inability to interpret figurative language or other social interactions.