The auditory system is responsible for the body’s sense of hearing. It allows us to detect, locate, and identify sounds in our environment. It also helps us determine which sounds are important and which can be tuned out. Children with auditory processing issues may be able to hear background noises others tune out or can’t detect, have a hard time controlling the volume of their voices, or experience delays in their speech and linguistic development.
See below for a quick guide on identifying vestibular issues as a seeker, avoider or sensory challenged and how you can help support your child with these struggles.
Auditory Issues May Appear As:
- Seek out loud or busy environments.
- Seem to always be yelling or speaking too loudly.
- Make repetitive sounds, such as clapping, tapping, or clicking.
- Have difficulty focusing on a task without humming or making noise.
- Prefer to have constant background noise, such as music, a fan, or TV.
- Insist on listening to TV or music at a volume that is uncomfortable to others.
- Seek out quiet or secluded environments.
- Be bothered or distracted by background noises others can’t detect.
- Be bothered or extremely irritated by repetitive or specific sounds.
- Frequently cover their ears and react to loud or high-pitched noises as if in pain.
- Be startled and extremely frightened by unexpected sounds.
- Become overwhelmed and frustrated while working in loud, busy environments.
- Engage in repetitive, self-soothing activities, such as rocking or chewing.
- Speak too loudly or too softly.
- Appear unresponsive or confused when given verbal directions.
- Take longer than usual to process and respond to verbal directions.
- Have difficulty distinguishing between background and foreground noises.
- Have difficulty distinguishing between similar sounding words (cat, rat, sat).
How to Support Auditory Issues:
- Encourage playing with instruments and other noise-making toys.
- Sleep with a fan, quiet music, or white noise machine.
- Play TV, music, and games at an increased—but safe—volume.
- Allow listening to headphones while studying or during dull/repetitive activities.
- Schedule time throughout the day to sing, clap, or listen to music. This can be especially helpful when transitioning from one activity to another.
- Encourage using earplugs or headphones when needed.
- Schedule frequent breaks and quiet times throughout the day.
- Give advance warning of loud and unexpected sounds whenever possible.
- Ease anxiety by using a visual timer to indicate when unpleasant noises will end.
- Speak clearly and stand directly in front of your child when giving verbal directions.
- Use a fan, white noise, or soft music to muffle background noise at bedtime.
- Be conscious of noisy household items, such as vacuums, dryers, or buzzing light bulbs.
- Create a quiet, safe space at home and include noise canceling and comforting items.
- Work on calming strategies and develop a plan for how to exit overwhelming situations.
- Stand directly in front of your child when giving verbal directions or asking a question. Give him/her extra time to process and respond to what you’ve said.
- Break complicated instructions down into small, simple steps and allow your child to complete each step each before moving on to the next part.
- Teach your child to use visual cues, such as stop signs, flashing lights, or children lining up at the door for a fire drill to stay safe and know what to do next.
- Work with your child’s teachers on ways to reinforce and revisit key concepts. Consider incorporating presentations, audio recordings, and typed notes/outlines.
- Play games to practice telling the difference between similar sounding words. (“Ball and fall—are these the same or different? Now you choose two words and try to trick me.”)
Read more about the auditory system on the STAR Institute’s website.