As visual processing ability referred to word recognition and recall of words after the image has been received by the eyes, auditory processing ability refers to what happens to impulses of sound in the brain after the ears have received them. You will recall that sound is processed into understandable words in an area of the temporal lobe of the dominant hemisphere called Wernicke’s area. The level of functioning of Wernicke’s area directly impacts the auditory recognition and recall of words. Those students who have a high level of activity in Wernicke’s area have good auditory processing ability. Those who have low levels of activity in this region struggle with the verbal skills associated with spoken words and ideas.
Figure 1. Wernicke’s area
These students have Auditory Processing Disorder (a.k.a., Central Auditory Processing Disorder), a neurological condition that prevents students from being able to process information that they hear in the same way as other students without the disorder. Something interferes with the brain and its recognition and interpretation of auditory input, most notably the sounds composing speech. As a result, these students have difficulty remembering what was said (following oral directions), are highly susceptible to distracting noises, and find it extremely difficult to master foreign languages. As with visual imagery and word recognition and recall, auditory processing ability is independent of intelligence. Further, longitudinal research demonstrates that almost seven out of ten people (66%) with visual processing difficulties also have auditory processing deficits.
Central Auditory Processing Disorder “Red Flags”
The following list are common indicators of a language-based learning disability founded upon the auditory processing of language (central auditory processing disorder):
- Difficulty remembering or following directions
- Excessive yawning and sleepiness in class
- Difficulty understanding text because of underlying oral language problems
- Confusion with letters that have similar sounds ( d/t, b/p, f/v)
- Difficulty remembering common sight words (was, the, and, she, etc.)
- Difficulty taking notes in class
- Poor auditory discrimination
- Poor ability to retain
- Difficulty in finding the “right” word when speaking
- Does much better with oral testing
- Difficulty pronouncing words correctly (for example, “aminal ” instead of “animal ”)
- Difficulty rhyming
- Problems learning the names of shapes and colors
- Difficulty learning letter names and letter sounds
Again, if a student demonstrates multiple indicators, parents and teachers are encouraged to pursue diagnostic testing from a qualified educational diagnostician to determine the presence of a specific language disability.