Factors Influencing Tests of Auditory Processing: A Perspective on Current Issues and Relevant Concerns

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Abstract

Background:

Tests of auditory perception, such as those used in the assessment of central auditory processing disorders ([C]APDs), represent a domain in audiological assessment where measurement of this theoretical construct is often confounded by nonauditory abilities due to methodological shortcomings. These confounds include the effects of cognitive variables such as memory and attention and suboptimal testing paradigms, including the use of verbal reproduction as a form of response selection. We argue that these factors need to be controlled more carefully and/or modified so that their impact on tests of auditory and visual perception is only minimal.

Purpose:

To advocate for a stronger theoretical framework than currently exists and to suggest better methodological strategies to improve assessment of auditory processing disorders (APDs). Emphasis is placed on adaptive forced-choice psychophysical methods and the use of matched tasks in multiple sensory modalities to achieve these goals. Together, this approach has potential to improve the construct validity of the diagnosis, enhance and develop theory, and evolve into a preferred method of testing.

Research Design:

Examination of methods commonly used in studies of APDs. Where possible, currently used methodology is compared to contemporary psychophysical methods that emphasize computer-controlled forced-choice paradigms.

Results:

In many cases, the procedures used in studies of APD introduce confounding factors that could be minimized if computer-controlled forced-choice psychophysical methods were utilized.

Conclusions:

Ambiguities of interpretation, indeterminate diagnoses, and unwanted confounds can be avoided by minimizing memory and attentional demands on the input end and precluding the use of response-selection strategies that use complex motor processes on the output end. Advocated are the use of computer-controlled forced-choice psychophysical paradigms in combination with matched tasks in multiple sensory modalities to enhance the prospect of obtaining a valid diagnosis.

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