Being able to hear and understand sounds-auditory processing-greatly enriches our lives and enables us to accomplish many tasks essential to survival. Although we engage in this process continuously throughout our lives, many may fail to appreciate that the seemingly automatic task of auditory processing often involves considerable mental effort to accomplish. Consider the following examples:
In each of the scenarios, the effort required for auditory processing became more evident because it occurred in a situation when the person was engaged in other tasks (i.e., driving and trying to eat lunch). Simultaneous visual demands from the driving task were placed on Lara, and she chose to temporarily shed the task of eating as well as turn up the volume on the radio to allow her to focus more intently on the listening task. For Johan, visual speech cues aided his ability to understand the verbal cues. Auditory processing requires effort, even under the best of listening circumstances, although this effort may go unnoticed until the situation becomes more challenging. Challenges to auditory processing can stem from noisy or degraded listening situations, faint signals, or the concurrent demands of other tasks that must be performed simultaneously. Understanding these relationships is the focus of this book.