Auditory perception is the ability to perceive and understand sounds, usually with specific organs, such as a human's ears. Sound exists in the form of vibrations that travel through the air or through other substances. Ears detect such vibrations and convert them into nerve impulses, which are then sent to the brain where they can be interpreted. Deafness describes a condition in which individuals have no auditory perception; deaf individuals are not capable of perceiving or interpreting sounds. Different animals can perceive different sounds; dogs, for example, are capable of perceiving very high-pitched sounds that humans cannot perceive.
There are many factors that affect auditory perception beyond simply hearing sounds. The brain is largely responsible for many processes that can turn a mass of incoming noise into something useful and understandable. Auditory discrimination is the process by which one is able to note the differences between sounds; this is extremely important to language as spoken words are understood based on different sounds. Discrimination between foreground and background is also an important part of auditory discrimination. It is important to be able to focus on important noises and to ignore irrelevant and unimportant noises so that one is not overwhelmed by a vast amount of noise.
Auditory synthesis is another process very important to the comprehension of language. It describes the process by which the brain combines different sounds into understandable units, similar to the way letters are combined into words and words into sentences. Auditory sequencing is a process closely related to both memory and auditory perception. It describes the ability to understand and remember the order in which certain sounds happened.
Individuals who have hearing problems may simply have difficulty hearing quiet sounds or extreme pitches. They may also, however, have problems with the above processes that are essential to making sense of sounds. Problems with auditory perception can exist from birth, or they can be caused by injuries to the brain or ears. They are generally easy to detect; one with hearing problems either cannot hear well or cannot make sense of the sounds that he hears.
Some children suffer from a loss of auditory perception from birth. There are many ways to detect hearing problems in children. Often, they do not understand or respond to auditory signals or commands. They ask for directions to be repeated, often several times. In many cases, they watch what others are doing before taking any action of their own.