We are often faced with confused parents that have been told that children under 7 can not be tested for Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). These parents are concerned for the well being and success of their children and are often desperate for help. Despite numerous publications from many well known audiologists in clinical and research settings, this AGE MYTH continues to thrive. Here are some facts and some publications from some of the most respected Audiologists when it comes to Auditory Processing that I am hoping will help to BUST this misguided MYTH:
- Dr. Frank E. Musiek, renowned professor, researcher, scholar, and clinical audiologist states that there are tests available to assess children under the age of 7 years, but that it’s important to consider that there may be variability in results from the very young.
- Dr. Terri Bellis, professor and international expert on the topic of APD, states that while most tests are normed for children 7 years or older, there are reliably normed tests for children much younger and early intervention is key. Like Dr. Musiek, Dr. Bellis emphasizes that test interpretation in the very young needs to be approached cautiously, but it is not discouraged.
- Dr. Jay Lucker, professor and dual certified audiologist and speech/language pathologist is also a renowned expert on the subject of APD and language processing disorders. Dr. Lucker addresses misconceptions regarding the above cautions from Dr. Bellis and Dr. Musiek by stating that all test results in all children, regardless of age, should be cautiously interpreted. He also cites ASHA and AAA (two professional credentialing organizations for Audiology) with stating that children under the age of 7 years for APD can be tested with reliably normed (and referenced) test batteries as long as interpretation is considered cautiously.
In summary, I think it’s important to recognize that a child’s auditory development can be assessed at ANY age, either by assessing subjective observations from the parents, evaluating current speech/language skills, understanding objective peripheral hearing abilities, or investigating central auditory processing skills with reliable and normed test batteries (available as young as 3 ½ years of age). Reliable assessment of a child’s auditory processing development is possible at any age when cautious interpretation is utilized (a recurring theme across all cited articles above). It is not appropriate to put off a developmental evaluation because we are waiting for a “magical age” that simply does not exist. Age is just a number! There have been plenty of mature 4 and 5 year olds that have been able to complete testing in our clinic far more reliably than some 7, 8 and 9 year olds that we have seen. There is no value in considering a child’s age when it comes to determining eligibility for testing and auditory therapy.
At any stage, Little Listeners can advise or provide direct therapy for any developmental concerns that are reported by the parents or evident in the objective testing that can be performed:
- Infants – we can provide screenings or physiological measurements of peripheral hearing abilities and provide developmental checklists for parents to monitor speech/language milestones at home.
- Toddlers – we are able to perform behavioral assessments and physiological measurements to ensure normal peripheral hearing and provide home therapy tools that will promote normal auditory development, or refer out to speech/language therapists for speech stimulation.
- Children 5-7 years of age – we are able to assess central auditory processing skills with reliably normed processing tests and parent/teacher questionnaires regarding communication/learning abilities.
- Children and adults 7 years of age and older – comprehensive auditory processing assessments are available.
- All school aged children – there are reliable auditory training tools available for use at home, in the clinic, or in both environments to help remediate any processing delays.
A therapist should first meet a child and attempt testing with all resources available before determining if their skills can be reliably measured or not. And if not, it is crucial to recognize that there are many wonderful sound-based interventions that are commercially available to help young children develop their auditory processing skills appropriately, while waiting for the right maturity (not the right age!) for testing.