PURPOSE: The purpose of this review article is to describe characteristics of auditory processing disorders (APD) by evaluating the literature in which children with suspected or diagnosed APD were compared with typically developing children and to determine whether APD must be regarded as a deficit specific to the auditory modality or as a multimodal deficit.
METHOD: Six electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed studies investigating children with (suspected) APD in comparison with typically developing peers. Relevant studies were independently reviewed and appraised by 2 reviewers. Methodological quality was quantified using the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association's levels of evidence.
RESULTS: Fifty-three relevant studies were identified. Five studies were excluded because of weak internal validity. In total, 48 studies were included, of which only 1 was classified as having strong methodological quality. Significant dissimilarities were found between children referred with listening difficulties and controls. These differences relate to auditory and visual functioning, cognition, language, reading, and physiological and neuroimaging measures.
CONCLUSIONS: Methodological quality of most of the incorporated studies was rated moderate due to the heterogeneous groups of participants, inadequate descriptions of participants, and the omission of valid and reliable measurements. The listening difficulties of children with APD may be a consequence of cognitive, language, and attention issues rather than bottom-up auditory processing.