Auditory processing is what you do with what you hear


What is Auditory Processing?

It involves the pathways from the ear to the brain, as well as the collection of sound by the ear. Auditory processing encompasses hearing and listening.  Good listening is dependant on teamwork between the ear and the connection to and within the brain.

Good hearing is the most important sense for learning in children – it is even more important than good sight. On average, if you compare children who are born deaf with those who are born blind; by fourth grade the deaf children will be two years behind the blind children.1 Avoidance and management of early ear infections, chronic congestion and food intolerances are all important because the affect learning.

Why is the ear so special?

Sound energises the entire nervous system and provides powerful stimulation for the brain to adapt to our daily needs. Auditory processing allows us to master many tasks, including:

  • Attend to those sounds that are meaningful and filter out what is not
  • Comprehend language
  • Communicate effectively
  • Read and write
  • Identify the source of sound

Leading right ear

Robert Keith and others have shown the importance of the right ear in childhood. Up to 18 months, the right hemisphere is leading. We hear babble and long repeated sounds: daa-daa, maa-maa and baa-baa and processing time is very slow. From 18 months to 4 years, there is a left hemisphere growth spurt, and language develops, with two syllable phrases,e.g. “all done, want dwink”, then short sentences and as processing speed improves, we hear more complex sentences. From 18 months to 11 years, the right ear is the prime listener and decoder for speech.

Recent research has confirmed Dr Tomatis’ conclusion that the right ear is designed to process speech and the left to process music.2 This has profound implications for speech and language development. So, children with right eared problems are at a distinct disadvantage.



Children with learning difficulties usually have inadequate auditory processing. They process too slowly, and can only manage to understand short blocks of words and only parts of a sentence. They overload quickly, cease to attend and their memory, comprehension and speech becomes scrambled. They often have delayed or poor speech, poor language skills and are poor at phonics, decoding new words, reading, spelling and comprehension. Learn more about ‘processing speed’

Those with learning or performance deficits often labelled attention deficit, they are often emotionally behind their peers. Learning difficulties are not always obvious and often cause behavioural issues. While the causes of learning and attention deficits are complex, about 70% of children diagnosed with a learning difficulty and 50% of those labelled ADD have an auditory processing problem. Such children are usually unable to listen effectively.

1. Dr Ron Minson, Centre for InnerChange in Denver, public seminar, October 13 2004.
2. Sininger, YS, Cone-Wesson, B. Asymmetric cochlear processing mimics hemispheric specialisation Science, Vol. 305. no. 5690. Study of 3000 newborns.

Learn more about the listening brain