How we process sound

In our daily lives, we are constantly subjected to a multitude of different sounds. The amount of sound that we actually process and perceive, however, is only a small percentage of all the sounds we are exposed to.

Our perception and understanding of sounds is generated by a complex central auditory processing system within our brains.

Once sound is received by our ears, our auditory system rapidly:

  • filters unimportant sound from our consciousness; and
  • interprets and applies meaning to important sounds by drawing upon our memory and sensitivities to variations in the properties of sound (such as pitch, volume and rhythm).

In summary, central auditory processing describes the communication between our ears and our brain.

Auditory system refinement commences at birth and any deficiencies are often noticeable in early childhood.

Hearing and auditory processing are separate systems, but both must work well for us to be able to hear, and then understand sound. A person with normal hearing may not be able to effectively process and apply meaning to sound.