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Auditory Processing

Paediatric Occupational Therapy Auditory (Sound) Processing Advice and Information for Parent / Carers    

Auditory processing is the ability to perceive and understand what is heard in the environment. It involves more that the sense of hearing and requires intricate processing; discriminating, associating and interpreting sounds, remembering and understanding what has been heard and relating words in a meaningful way. It is important to be able to filter out background noise to focus on what is important. Auditory processing is an important foundation for the development of communication skills and plays an important role in classroom performance and peer relationships.  

Children with difficulties with auditory processing can at times appear confused or inattentive. They may rush tasks or take a long time to respond and complete tasks. These children usually learn using their vision.   

The following list is not exhaustive, and you may find other activities to add into your child’s daily life.  

All tasks should be carried out under adult supervision.

Activity Suggestions

  • Where possible prepare your child in advance of the loud noise/noisy environment e.g. school bell, vacuum cleaner, toilet flushing or hand drier. Give as much information as possible e.g. type of noise, duration, what is expected of the child, strategies to cope. 

  • Rather than avoid the distressing noise, reassure your child about the source of the noise as it is impossible to protect your child.

  • Encourage your child to cover his ears with his hands or use ear muffs. Try also ear plugs from the pharmacy (the silicon ear plugs sit in the outer part of the ear and mould to the child’s ear – can also be used at the swimming pool or beach). You should consider the use of head phones or ear plugs to wear when needed to focus on work or particularly noisy situations.

  • Relaxing background music can be used in noisy environments to assist your child to focus. Using a mp3 player, listening to favourite radio station or music often help drown out environmental noises and help your child stay focused on an activity.

  • Give definite time limits to the task (“Let’s listen to one song. Then we will leave the room”).  Use a sand timer to visually reinforce this.

  • Some children cope better with visual aids. Try using photos or social stories to increase understanding of the situation and source of the noise. Go through these aids with your child so that your child knows what is going to happen.

  • Chewing gum or other chewy sweets provide strong proprioceptive jaw input and can compete with external noises and calm the nervous system. Fidget toys may also help for the same reason.

  • Have the child wear snug clothing to increase feedback to the sensory system i.e. wearing a tighter fitting vest or cycling shorts under clothing