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auditory discriminationAfter our sensory and auditory systems are aware of the presence of sound, we recognize the pattern of the sound we hear. This leads to what we often call auditory discrimination. This level of auditory processing involves a combination of the auditory system and the cognitive system. Visit the first article in this series, entitled Auditory Processing – A Multi-System Approach.

The first step is to rule out hearing loss since that can contribute to auditory detection and discrimination problems. However, when a hearing loss is not present, we need to focus training on the auditory system and the cognitive system working in harmony.

Teaching Auditory Discrimination
Through Lucker’s Multi-System Integrative Model of Auditory Processing, this professional likes to approach this the same way he approaches working with children with hearing loss first given hearing aids or cochlear implants. That is, we need to first teach the child to:

  • differentiate between the presence and absence of sound,
  • identify the location of the sound, and
  • identify what might be making the sound.

Later, similar sounds and words can be used and the child can learn to differentiate if the two sounds or words are the same or different (called auditory discrimination).

To do this work, start with general sounds such as a block in a box vs. a set of keys in a box. The child will learn to identify what is in the box purely by hearing the sound made when someone other than the child shakes the box. (It is important that the child not handle the box because he or she may get tactile feedback by which the discrimination and identification (detection) is done and not purely by listening.)

Later, the use of environmental sounds can be done and there are games and programs that provide recordings of environmental sounds.

Although most use visual cues, eventually the goal is not to have the visual choices but require the child to guess what is making the sound purely by hearing the sound. Once environmental sounds are used, the progression is to real words, nonsense words, and finally speech sounds or phonemes all by themselves.

This is a good way to begin work on early reading skills.

More in this Series


Lucker, J.R. (2008). What are auditory processing disorders? In, H. Edell, J.R. Lucker, & L. Alderman. Don’t You Get It? Living With Auditory Learning Disabilities. Wood Dale, IL.: Stoelting Co.

Lucker, J.R. (2013). Auditory hypersensitivity in children with autism spectrum disorder. Focus On Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20 (10), 1-8.

Lucker, J.R., Doman, A. (2012). Auditory hypersensitivity in children. Autism Science Digest, 4.