Tag Archives: Auditory processing disorder

When Kids Don’t Listen (A Very Simple Guide to APD)

Browsing through the kidshealth.org website, I noticed an article about APD (Auditory Processing Disorder), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).  It defines the condition as:

“a complex problem affecting about 5% of school-aged children.  These kids can’t process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate.  Something adversely affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.

Kids with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. These kinds of problems usually occur in background noise, which is a natural listening environment. So kids with APD have the basic difficulty of understanding any speech signal presented under less than optimal conditions.”

Many times, APD is not really treated as a serious problem because–let’s get real–children do have a tendency to misunderstand parents and teachers when they don’t feel like listening to things they don’t want to hear.  Case in point, my conversation with my son Basti, regarding the need to brush his teeth every night.

ME:  “Did you brush your teeth?”

BASTI (not looking away from the TV):  “Hmmm?”

ME:  “Did you brush your teeth?  If you haven’t, I will turn off that TV until you do.”

BASTI:  “Mom, I don’t understand what you are saying to me.”

Pilosopong Basti aside, consider the five problem areas (as described in the same website) that affect a child with APD:

1.  Auditory Figure-Ground Problems: when a child can’t pay attention if there’s noise in the background.

Gino belongs to a class of 23 students.   While their teacher is giving them instructions on how to write an expository essay,  Gino’s seatmate is whispering to him about the new iPad game he got last night.  Two boys behind him are chatting about football, and so are the two classmates in front of him.  The air-conditioner in the classroom is making loud, clunky sounds; and younger kids outside are shouting while playing frisbee.  Gino is so overwhelmed by the myriad of noises that he is unable to focus on what his teacher is saying, and just covers his ears.

2.  Auditory Memory Problems: when a child has difficulty remembering information such as directions, lists, or study materials.  

Lauren’s mother is telling her to pack for her class camping trip the next day.   “Lauren, go to my room and get the duffel bag in the closet.  You will find the sleeping bag under your brother’s bed.  Go pack your clothes after.  Don’t forget to bring sun screen, insect repellant, a jacket, cap, flashlight, and your allergy medicines.  Did you get all that?”  Lauren nods and goes to her mother’s room.  She searches around but can’t find what she is looking for.  After ten minutes, she shouts, “Mom where is the sleeping bag?  What do I have to bring again?”

3.  Auditory Discrimination Problems:  when a child has difficulty hearing the difference between words that are similar.

Jaime noticed that she got one mistake in her spelling test.  She approaches her teacher and says, “I spelled this word correctly.”  The teacher shakes her head, “I’m sorry, Jaime, it is wrong.  Color is spelled C-O-L-O-R.”  Jaime looks dismayed, “But I heard you say the word ‘collar.'”  The teacher explains, “I used the word in a sentence–The newborn puppy was color brown.”  Jaime looks confused, “I thought you said–The newborn puppy wore a brown collar.”

4.  Auditory Attention Problems:  when a child can’t stay focused on listening long enough to complete a task or requirement.

Rally’s teacher is explaining how to make a camera obscura.  “First, tape up the box to ensure that no light can penetrate it.  Then cut away part of one end of the box and fix a screen of tracing paper across it. At the opposite end cut a 25mm hole in the box, cover this with kitchen foil, tape down the edges and bore a neat round hole through the foil that is no larger than the lead of a pencil.”  While his teacher is talking, Rally’s attention is caught by the sound of a car passing by.  When he realizes that his teacher has finished talking, Rally looks at his cardboard box and then asks his friend beside him, “What are we suppose to do?”

5.  Auditory Cohesion Problems:  when higher-level listening tasks are difficult, such as drawing inferences from conversations.  

Mateo was being interviewed by a therapist about his family.  He was asked, “Mateo, do you like going to school?”  Mateo answers (with a smile), “Yes, I like school.”  The therapist asks further, “What do you do when you’re in school?”  Mateo says, “I play with my friends and I learn new things.”  The therapist continues, “What is it you most like about school?”  Mateo answers (with a little frown), “I like to go to school.”  The therapist rephrases her question, “What is your most favorite thing about school?”  Mateo says, “My favorite thing is school.”

Tomatis PhilippinesAPD can affect a child’s performance and behavior in school and at home if left unidentified and unmanaged.  And if so, it may lead to more serious concerns such as speech and language delays and academic problems.

Tomatis and APD

The Tomatis Method can help children with APD by retraining the auditory system and decreasing hearing distortion. This allows them to listen and focus on the important sounds and efficiently process the information in the brain, greatly improving a child’s receptive listening skills.

Dr. Deborah Swain, former Chief of Speech Pathology at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and current director of the Swain Center, explains in her study:

The Tomatis Method is based on the evidence that the neurophysiological construction of the auditory system has important connections with entire body as well as the cortex and sub-cortical structures, which are stimulated when stable and normal auditory perception occurs.

The Tomatis Method serves as an auditory stimulation/re-education intervention to stimulate listening and processing as opposed to hearing.  It reproduces the developmental steps of listening, language acquisition and use, and learning.

As a matter of fact, her study entitled  “The Effects of Auditory Stimulation on Auditory Processing Disorder,” describes the positive effect of the Tomatis Method as a form of intervention for APD.

The study’s purpose is to determine the efficacy of the Tomatis Method of auditory stimulation as a therapeutic intervention for Auditory Processing Disorders (APD).  Forty-one subjects (18 females, 23 males; 4.3 to 19.8 years old) were evaluated for APD.  Performance on standardized tests indicated weaknesses with auditory processing skills.  Each subject participated in a 90-hour Tomatis Method protocol and, once completed, each subject was re-evaluated to measure improvement.  All subjects demonstrated improvement with skills of immediate auditory memory, auditory sequencing, interpretation of directions, auditory discrimination, and auditory cohesion.  Pre- and post-treatment comparison indicated statistically significant differences in the aforementioned skills.  These findings suggest that the Tomatis Method of auditory stimulation can be effective as an intervention strategy for APD.

If you would like to find out more about how the Tomatis Method can address Auditory Processing Disorder, please email us: info@tomatis.com.ph.

Why the Right Ear IS the Right Ear

I’m not saying that the Left Ear has no use at all, but it seems that (according to Dr. Tomatis and other researchers) by using your Right Ear, one can better process what they hear and have a more appropriate emotional response.

How is this so?  The right side of our body is connected to the left side of our brain (and vice-versa).  Therefore, when we listen for sounds using our Right Ear, the information swiftly and efficiently travels to the left hemisphere which is responsible for processing our emotions, speech, and language comprehension.  The left side of the brain is also called the auditory processing center and it helps us analyze all the things we hear or listen to.  In his biography, The Conscious Ear, Dr. Tomatis writes:

“We have two ears, but each fulfils a different function.  The chief function of the right ear is to be a ‘director’….In the feedback loop of self-listening, which connects the hearing apparatus to the larynx, the right ear will be closer to the organs of speech than the left….The right ear takes charge of operations because it receives information more rapidly.”

What happens then when one is Left Ear Dominant?  When sound enters through the left ear, the information goes to the right side of the brain.  (The right hemisphere takes visual information and organizes them.)  From the right side of the brain, the sound then has to traverse through the corpus collosum (which connects the two brain hemispheres) and then go to the left side, which is the language center.  The delay of the sound reaching the left brain usually causes auditory confusion (“Huh?”), stuttering (“W- W- W- Where are you going?”), or dyslexia (mistaking the word “color” for “collar”).

Dr. Tomatis discovered the significance of the Right Ear while doing his work with opera singers.  He said,

“This is an absolute: all great singers and musicians are ‘right-eared….the right ear ‘measures’ the highest frequencies, while the left ear performs the job for the lower-pitched frequencies….As a result the left-eared person finds himself distanced by his ear.  Not only is he a long way from the person to whom he is talking to, but he is also a long way from his own body, since he cannot attune himself to the higher frequencies of his own voice.”

Since the connection is less reliable in interpreting language, Dr. Tomatis believed that Left Ear Dominant people had a tendency to miss many of the higher frequencies which causes information to get “lost in translation” and brings in errors and delays.

Being a healer, the good doctor found a way to help the opera singers become Right Ear Dominant.  He created a training apparatus to be used for audio-vocal education and re-education.  This is the same machine we use today (albeit in a more modern embodiment) called the Electronic Ear (see a photo of it here).  Later on, Dr. Tomatis used his machine to work on people who stuttered or were dyslexic, and to his amazement, they got better.  He concluded that by training them to become Right Ear Dominant–by increasing the input of sound using the Electronic Ear (among other things)–his clients not only started to sing better, they also improved their speech and language.  French actor, Gerard Depardieu, was one of his more enthusiastic and successful clients.

If you wish to find out your Ear Dominance and how we can help you, visit us at any of our Tomatis centers today.