Auditory processing refers to the brain’s ability to understand speech in noisy situations/background noise, understand rapid or degraded speech, detect subtle differences between sounds/pattern recognition (i.e. understanding people with foreign accents) and understand competing acoustic signals. In other words, we detect sound with our ears but listen and process speech with our brains.
By the time men reach their mid-40s they may experience increasing difficulty hearing in noisy situations. For women the similar age-related decline doesn’t occur until after age 50. For some people, auditory processing is a lifelong weakness, but most will notice a decline by age 60.
Knowing how to compensate for this decline as we age will contribute to more successful communication in difficult listening environments. Beneficial strategies to improve understanding include:
- Minimize background noise (i.e. TV, dishwasher, fan.)
- Ask family members, co-workers to get your attention before they begin a conversation, and to finish what they are saying before they walk away.
- Sit with your back against the wall at meetings or in restaurants, so that no one is talking behind you.
Sandy Burkes-Campbell, M.S., CCC-A
Maico Audiological Services