Sources of pathology underlying listening disorders in children.

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    Some children referred to audiology and developmental disability services have listening difficulties, despite normal audiograms. These children may be tested for 'auditory processing disorder' (APD), a controversial construct suggesting that neural dysfunction in the central auditory system leads to impaired auditory perception. An important question, not currently tested in clinical evaluation, is whether listening difficulties result from problems with bottom-up auditory sensory processing or top-down modulating cognition. Perceptual variability and poor performance on standardized tests suggest that listening difficulties are primarily cognitive in origin. However, evidence for impaired olivocochlear function and temporal processing deficits may implicate peripheral or central auditory dysfunction in some cases. Wide-spread, top-down modulation of auditory cortical, brainstem and ear function suggests that afferent and efferent control systems may not be simple to segregate. During normal maturation, hearing appears to develop in proportion to the complexity of both stimuli and tasks. But some younger individuals have mature hearing, highlighting individual differences that suggest APD may be due to a generalized developmental delay. Recent studies have investigated specific hypotheses showing, for example, that spatial hearing and executive function are compromised in some children with listening difficulties. Using speech stimuli (e.g. consonant-vowel syllables) to examine auditory brainstem responses, and psychophysiological relations between dichotic hearing and cortical physiology, various effects of auditory experience and development point the way to promising approaches for further studies of APD. Newer technology, from genetic sequencing to MRI, may have the sensitivity to test whether and how frequently APD is associated with impaired processing in the auditory system.


    • Auditory processing
    • Development
    • Evoked potential
    • Hearing
    • Language
    • Learning


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