Every child has moments when they don’t want to listen. Children are sometimes distracted, and what you say does not get through. However, if this "inattention" happens relatively often while your child does give the impression to hear you, there may be a problem. Your child would love to answer or react, but somehow, they do not seem to register what you say.

Hearing Is the First Step in the Process of Speech Perception

Just because your child can hear does not mean they understand. Your child's brain must process the sounds it picks up into a meaningful message. If it does not, this may indicate an auditory processing disorder (APD). Especially if there are background noises, a child with APD may have difficulty deciding what he/she hears. The noise does not even have to be loud. It can be shuffling of papers in the classroom or a truck passing by outside to distort the message. In their brain, these sounds are registering with the same intensity as their teacher’s voice, and it requires a lot of extra effort to pay attention.


Auditory processing problems can vary in severity. Some children can still recognize sounds and speech relatively well, despite the noise. Others get stuck when their ears pick up too many signals. This hypersensitivity to sound often occurs in combination with other disorders such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or physically impaired hearing. It also strongly resembles ADHD but is not the same. Why? because in order to rest the ears when they become overwhelmed with too much to process - one cannot “close the ears” - the only way is to zone out. ADHD? No, just an overwhelmed auditory system.

Hypersensitivity to sound also exists in different degrees and can even evolve into fear of sound. Persons with APD tend to avoid situations in which they expect loud sounds. Their hearing threshold can vary depending on the time of the day, as it is often accompanied by fatigue. While the radio may not be perceived as disturbing in the morning, it can become too much in the evening. A child may still be playing with friends at school in the morning, but when fatigue starts to take its toll in the afternoon, isolation may result, similar to what hard of hearing and deaf people experience.

Hearing Protection Is Not Necessarily a Solution

A logical conclusion would be that earphones help. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Even if the device has active noise cancelling, it is never 100% quiet. The brain now receives fewer auditory impulses and therefore overcompensates. As soon as the earphones come off again, an adjustment back to "normal" is required.

The Information Arrives with a Delay

When it seems that the information does arrive, but takes a little longer, this could be due to a left-dominant ear. Normally, the right ear is dominant because the transmission of sound to the language centre in the left hemisphere is shorter. The sound that reaches a left-dominant ear arrives after travelling a longer distance. During the journey, some of the information may be lost or distorted. Children that have dyslexia, writing problems, or stuttering may have left ear dominance.

Localization of the Sound Source

Finally, a person with auditory processing difficulties may have difficulty in locating the sound source, and this may indicate that the sound is distorted on its way from the auricle to the brain. The child must invest too much energy into interpreting sounds. Subsequently, they get tired, and their motivation to listen to decreases. No matter how much the child wants to listen, even attentively, this is simply physically impossible.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child has Auditory Processing Problems?

If in doubt, test your child's hearing. If the audiogram does not indicate any physical hearing problems, there may be an auditory processing disorder. From this point onwards, it is a matter of identifying the possible listening problem. Once auditory processing problems have indeed been established, we can draw up a treatment protocol. In any phase of the assessment, we are happy to ensure appropriate support.

For advice, feel free to call us at 760-634-6886 or email us at [email protected], so that your child can take the first step towards becoming confident, independent and with the same chances of success as their peers.