Auditory skills are those that focus on sound detection, sound identification, sound discrimination, and the comprehension of sound. In basic terms, this means to hear, identify, and understand sounds. Most auditory work is done with children, but adults can improve their skills too. You can improve your auditory skills by listening and playing music, having conversations and identifying different tones of voice, and practicing identifying the differences between similar sounds.
Before trying to improve a person's auditory skills, it's important to identify any problems that he or she may have with hearing or understanding. One example is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), a condition that inhibits a person from processing information they hear. A person with APD is able to detect sounds, but the ears and the brain do not work together to interpret and comprehend the auditory signal, especially speech signals. When placed in a noisy environment, a person with APD would have a much more difficult time picking out speech amidst other external noise than they would in an optimal listening environment. An audiologist can determine if a person has APD.
If a child has APD or another auditory condition, there are a number of things that can be done to improve his or her auditory skills. The child should be healthy and not suffering from any other auditory impairment, however, or else these practices might not work. Letting the child listen to a wide range of different types of music and assisting in his or her music appreciation is a good way to begin improving auditory skills. Playing and singing songs and rhymes can help a child learn to detect different sounds and coordinate the recognition of different tones between the ear and the brain.
Simple conversation with a child is also very helpful in building his or her auditory skills. When having a conversation, you might have the child respond in different intensities of voice to make sure he or she is able to hear specific sound intensities. Having a child respond in specific voice intonations, such as the voice inflection used in asking a question, is also beneficial to improving a child's auditory skills.
It is possible for adults to improve their auditory skills as well, but can be more difficult. An adult has already established the neurological framework in the brain, so it is more difficult to change in adulthood. A child's brain is much more "plastic" in neurological terms than an adult's brain, meaning a child's brain changes and adapts more easily.
An adult may participate in the same type of exercises as children, however, and also gain benefit from it. Listening to music, especially tone recognition, can help improve your auditory skills in terms of strengthening the relationship between the ear and the brain. Practicing conversation can also be beneficial, if you listen carefully to how different people use vocal queues to express meaning.