Auditory processing disorder

What’s the Difference Between Auditory Processing and Listening Comprehension?

By Dean Mancuso

What’s the difference between auditory processing and listening comprehension?

Dean Mancuso

Assistant Professor of Audiology, Columbia University Medical Center

Auditory processing refers to how the human brain recognizes and interprets sound. This includes the ability to:

  • Hear speech and other sounds. A person with an auditory processing disorder is perfectly aware of sounds. But his brain somehow deciphers these sounds abnormally.
  • Distinguish between similar sounds or words. For example, auditory processing helps a person hear the difference between time and dime.
  • Separate important sounds from background noise. This is what enables a person in a crowded room to focus on what someone next to him is saying.
  • Recall and comprehend what was heard. This means even a simple instruction such as “Put your coat on” will be hard to follow if a person misheard it as “Put your boat on.”

Listening comprehension involves higher-level thinking than auditory processing. Listening comprehension describes a person’s ability to understand the meaning of the words he’s hearing. It’s the term experts use for how our brains make sense of spoken language.

In summary, auditory processing allows a person to decode the sounds of the words. Listening comprehension allows him to understand the meaning of the words.

If you suspect your child is struggling with either of these issues, it’s important to have a team of professionals work together to pinpoint the problem. This multidisciplinary team should include a psychologist, a speech-language pathologist and an audiologist.

Your child’s doctor can refer you to these kinds of specialists. Or you can request an evaluation to address these issues through your child’s school.

About the Author

Portrait of Dean Mancuso

Dean Mancuso

Dean Mancuso, Au.D., is assistant professor of audiology at Columbia University Medical Center.

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