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Learning Differences: Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder

This guide focuses on Auditory Processing Disorder and studying. It includes:

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Central Auditory Processing Disorder by Fauquier ENT

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) affects how the brain processes speech. The ears process (or hear) sound normally, but the brain has difficulty processing the sounds and understanding what they have heard. It can impact people of all ages, and in different ways. 

People with APD may:

  • have difficulty understanding and remembering what people say unless it is clear and simple
  • find it hard to hear in noisy settings
  • feel extreme tiredness after school or work
  • experience learning problems with language, spelling, vocabulary, reading, or writing.

APD can be treated with auditory training, assistive hearing technology, and language therapy. Due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, permanent improvements in auditory skills can be seen.

APD is not related to hearing problems or intelligence.

Learning Strategies for Students

These strategies might be useful to help you manage your study

Talk about your learning preference 
  • Talk to your tutor about your learning strengths, weaknesses and preferences. 
  • Create some personal signals that you can use with your tutors to communicate your needs. For example, when you want help, more time, or time out. 
Find the 'right' seat in the classroom
  • Ask to take a walk through your learning environment before your course starts.
  • Find a space in the classroom or study area where distractions are minimal, and you feel comfortable. this may mean:
    • sitting at the front of the classroom so you can hear the tutor clearly
    • sitting away from background noises such as fans, heaters, talkative students or student who play loud music.
Understanding instructions
  • If you are unsure about what you heard, ask your tutor to repeat instructions in a louder and clearer voice. 
  • Check your understanding of instructions by repeating or rephrasing them to your tutor.
Prepare for class
  • Read written instructions, lecture notes, and assigned texts before class begins.
  • Ask your tutors for the schedule or plan for each session. 
Find a study buddy
  • Find a study or hearing buddy within your class who you can check your understanding of tasks and instructions with. 
Use assistive technology

There are different types of assistive technology available. 

  • Talk to an audiologist about assistive hearing technology. 


Take a moment: Choose one or two learning strategies to try this week. 


Teaching Strategies for Tutors

If a student has APD they may:

  • miss some class instructions and have to watch or ask others what to do after verbal instructions are given
  • ask for instructions to be repeated even though they appeared to be focused and trying to listen the first time
  • have difficulty retaining information when it is only given verbally
  • appear overwhelmed in noisy classroom situations especially when there are a lot of different noises at the same time" (MoE, 2020).

The best things you can do to support your students with APD are:

  • Learn more about APD
  • Get you know your students and their learning preferences. 

These teaching strategies may helpful for students with APD. 

Create supportive learning environments

  • Think about the sensory input that students may be perceiving.
  • Ensure there is a calm, quiet space students can work with limited distractions, as well as a space where they can go to re-energise themselves if they are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Allow students to wear headphones to manage noise/input.
  • Take opportunities to create a stress-free classroom.
  • Allow plenty of time for students to complete tasks, process information and formulate responses. Avoid talking during this time. 
  • Schedule breaks between listening intensive tasks

Help students find the 'right' seat in the classroom
  • Support students to find a seat close to the front of the classroom where they can clearly hear your voice and where background noises can be limited. 
Give clear instructions and information 
  • Give clear, concise instructions with unambiguous language in multiple formats. 
  • Consider speaking at a slightly reduced rate with a slightly raised volume, especially when you are talking for an extended period of time, or giving multiple instructions. 
  • Use intonation and pauses to help convey the message.
  • Ensure you have the student's attention before giving instructions.
  • Check that your instructions have been understood by asking students to repeat or rephrase the information. 
  • Give short snippets of information or one instruction at a time.

Use visual cues
  • Enhance your verbal communication with visual cues, such as using charts, pictures, and videos in your teaching.
  • Present verbal information in at least one other format to support comprehension.

Support students to find a study buddy
  • Encourage students to use a buddy to check their understanding of tasks and instructions.
Teach effective learning strategies 
  • Teach and reinforce specific listening skills and behaviours, such as active listening, questioning, and paraphrasing.
  • Use Moodle to share lecture slides and course resources prior to class.
  • Summarise what you have covered at the end of each session.

Does this sound like you?

Want to check if you might have Auditory Processing Disorder?

  • Click the arrow on the right to answer some questions.
  • If you answer yes to many of these questions, then you might be experiencing the effects of Auditory Processing Disorder.

This checklist can give you an idea of whether you might have Auditory Processing Disorder. It shouldn't be used to diagnose yourself. Talk to your Accessibility Coordinator for more information.

  • I have difficulty following spoken directions unless they are brief and simple
  • I have difficulty remembering spoken information
  • I process spoken information slowly
  • I am sensitive to loud sounds or noise
  • I have difficulty understanding a single voice another other noises 



  • I can get overwhelmed by complex or “busy” auditory environments e.g. classrooms, shopping malls
  • I feel that I have poor listening skills
  • I turn the volume up loud on the tv or radio
  • I find it difficult to hear different tones of voice or other nuances of speech


  • I have one of these commonly related conditions:
    • brain injury
    • neurological disorders affecting the brain
    • history of frequent or persistent middle ear disease (otitis media, ‘glue ear’)
    • difficulty with reading or spelling
    • suspicion or diagnosis of dyslexia
    • suspicion or diagnosis of language disorder or delay

Assistive Technology

There may be technology available that may make studying easier.

You may be eligible for funding. Getting a professional assessment may help you get funding for support tools. APD is diagnosed by audiologists using specialised auditory tests

References & Useful Links


Te Kete Ipurangi. (n.d.). Understanding being Deaf and hard of hearing. Inclusive Education. 

If you want to talk about any information on these pages, please contact Wayne Samways, the Accessibility Coordinator. or 027 218 9180


Thank you to the team at Te PÅ«kenga Weltec Whitireia who gave us permission to adapt and use their guide on Learning Differences