When we hear and understand speech, our auditory system has to perform a rather complex task of recognizing and interpreting sound. The process of recognizing and interpreting sound or speech involves the entire auditory pathway from the ear itself on through the brainstem and finally up to the temporal area of our brain. Auditory Processing is the term used to describe what we do with sound once we “hear “ it.

When an audiologist assesses a person’s auditory processing skills they are basically looking at the how effectively and efficiently they perform skills such as:

Sound Localization and Lateralization: the ability to know where sound has occurred in space, to identify the source of sound.

Auditory Discrimination: the ability to distinguish one sound from another.

Binaural Interaction: the ability to integrate information heard in each ear.

Binaural Separation: the ability separate information arriving at each ear.

Temporal Sequencing: the ability to process two or more sounds in their correct order.

Temporal Resolution: the ability to detect small changes in sound over time.

Temporal Integration: the ability to sequence and process sounds over time by both ears.

Auditory Performance with Degraded Acoustic Speech: the ability to understand speech when some of the information is missing or compressed in time: the ability to perceive speech or other sounds when another signal (noise or speech) is present.

(ASHA 2005, CAA 2012)

When a person has difficulty and reduced performance on any of the above auditory skills, they are said to have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). In the real world it means they may have difficulty understanding speech in certain contexts and this can have a significant impact on communication and learning. Check out our section on APD for more information.