Your ability to listen to a phone message in one ear while a friend is talking into your other ear -- and comprehend what both are saying -- is an important communication skill that's heavily influenced by your genes, say researchers of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), one of the National Institutes of Health. The finding, published in the August 2007 issue of Human Genetics, may help researchers better understand a broad and complex group of disorders -- called auditory processing disorders (APDs) -- in which individuals with otherwise normal hearing ability have trouble making sense of the sounds around them.
The term "auditory processing" refers to functions performed primarily by the brain that help a listener interpret sounds. Among other things, auditory processing enables us to tell the direction a sound is coming from, the timing and sequence of a sound, and whether a sound is a voice we need to listen to or background noise we should ignore. Most people don't even realize they possess these skills, much less how adept they are at them. Auditory processing skills play a role in a child's language acquisition and learning abilities, although the extent of that relationship is not well understood.
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