About SoundSkills

SoundSkills: teaching the brain to hear

SoundSkills is a specialist multi-disciplinary diagnostic and treatment service for children and adults with (Central) Auditory Processing Disorder ((C)APD). SoundSkills offers a comprehensive range of diagnostic and treatment services for APD.

The SoundSkills Story

SoundSkills was started by audiologist Dr Bill Keith to provide an expert comprehensive service for the management of APD, a neglected and under-funded area of hearing services. Having studied APD at Baylor College of Medicine in the United States, and dismayed at the lack of APD services in New Zealand, Dr Keith set about bringing together a specialist multi-disciplinary team to develop better APD services in New Zealand.

The SoundSkills APD Clinic opened with one clinician and one clinic room alongside the audiology and speech-language clinics of the School of Population Health at the Tamaki Innovation Campus of the University of Auckland under the University’s policy of encouraging synergistic start-ups to locate on campus. Pre-used equipment was donated by a hearing aid company. When we outgrew the available university space we built a new clinic in The Parenting Place, Greenlane. More equipment was donated by a retail audiology chain. Eventually, bursting at the seams again, we were fortunate to become a foundation tenant in the ideal location of the new purpose-built Hearing House facility, the Stichbury Bidwill Centre. The Centre is the home of The Hearing House, provider of children’s and adult cochlear implant services; and other organisations involved in clinical services and research in communication disorders.

Today our SoundSkills team of specialists in audiology, special education, speech-language therapy and autism operates a model clinic serving clients from all over New Zealand, participates in APD teaching and research, disseminates information and knowledge about APD nationally and internationally, advocates for better APD services and funding, and fields inquiries about APD from all over the world.

Our purpose

SoundSkills' vision is to assist people with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) to achieve their optimal communication ability by;

  • offering comprehensive, expert and up-to-date diagnostic and treatment services for APD
  • translating scientific research on APD into clinical practice
  • carrying out research into APD
  • developing model APD services for others to follow
  • advocating for better funding and services for people with APD, and
  • increasing awareness of APD.

SoundSkills strives to provide;

  • ethical and professional services
  • a supportive and caring culture, and
  • expert knowledge and advice.

Our supporters

SoundSkills is supported financially by William Keith (founder) and Judith Keith, and has received project and research grants from a variety of organisations including:

  • the Hearing Research Foundation
  • the Eisdell Moore Hearing and Balance Research Centre, University of Auckland
  • the William Demant Foundation, Denmark
  • Sonova AG, Switzerland
  • the NR and JH Thomson Charitable Trust, and
  • Lottery Health Research.

SoundSkills collaborates with the University of Auckland and University of Memphis on research into APD.

SoundSkills is most grateful to its supporters and collaborators who make it possible for SoundSkills’ services to continue.


SoundSkills Team


Dr Bill Keith QSO PhD MNZAS


Dr Bill Keith is an audiologist with over fifty years public and private sector experience.

Bill was Principal Audiologist, National Audiology Centre, Department of Health, and was involved in establishing many hearing services and policies in New Zealand including the University of Auckland School of Medicine audiology training programme and New Zealand's first cochlear implant service. He has continued to consult on various national hearing policy issues.

He established the hearing aid company Phonak New Zealand Ltd (a subsidiary of the Swiss Sonova group) in New Zealand and managed it for eighteen years, earning a number of business awards during that time.

Bill has carried out hearing research in New Zealand and the United States. He is also the inventor of an automated paediatric audiometer that was manufactured and exported from New Zealand for a number of years.

With Phonak colleagues Bill was closely involved with Team New Zealand for over ten years in the development of specialised on-board crew communication systems for their Americas Cup yachts.

Bill has been awarded the honour of Companion of the Queen's Service Order for Public Service, a Fulbright Travel Award for his graduate studies at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, and Life Memberships of the NZ Audiological Society and the Hearing Association, Auckland Branch. In 2011 he was awarded the International Award in Hearing by the American Academy of Audiology.

Over the past fifty years Bill has served on numerous health, research, deafness, professional, business and voluntary organisation committees and Boards. He chaired the Northern Cochlear Implant Trust which manages government-funded cochlear implant services and was Deputy Chair of the associated Pindrop Foundation. He served on the Board of the Abilities Foundation Charitable Trust, the National Steering Team for Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (Project HIEDI), and the Scientific Committee and Board of the Deafness Research Foundation. He is also a Past National President of the Hearing Association and is on the Board of the Hearing Association, Auckland.

Bill currently runs SoundSkills, a specialist clinic for children and adults with auditory processing disorder (APD), which he has established to redress the lack of APD services in New Zealand; and carries out APD teaching and research at the University of Auckland.


Oriole Wilson

Clinic Manager

I currently work as a clinical audiologist and Clinic Manager at SoundSkills.

I have been a practising audiologist for over 30 years in the public, private and university sectors in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. I did my postgraduate audiology training at the University of Melbourne and have a Master’s Degree in Audiology. I have worked in many different areas of Audiology and this gives me a broad perspective on my field.

Over the course of my career I have worked in the area of Auditory Processing Disorders on several occasions and this has now become a speciality. I am finding this to be a very satisfying part of audiology practice to work in. Undetected Auditory Processing Disorder can have a major impact of people’s lives and this is particularly noticeable for children in school settings. It is also exciting to see the benefit that clients can achieve with the treatment we provide at SoundSkills.

As I have many members of my own family with hearing loss, this allows me some special insights into the issues that hearing loss causes on family dynamics. Through my work at SoundSkills I can see this also applies to the effects of Auditory Processing Disorder on families.

For the past 5 years I have been travelling to Kiribati (as a volunteer), with two colleagues where we are helping to provide hearing aid and ear nursing services to Deaf children in the Special School on Tarawa.


Janene Houghton MA DipAud


Janene is a highly experienced New Zealand audiologist, trained in New Zealand and Australia. After a period working in the field in New Zealand, Janene’s husband was posted to Hong Kong where they lived for 14 years, raising three daughters and travelling extensively. Janene continued her Audiological work in a variety of roles including as a clinical tutor in the Hearing and Speech Sciences program and as Senior Research Assistant at the University of Hong Kong. She established a neonatal hearing screening programme as part of a joint research and clinical services development project between the University and the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital at which facility she was also instrumental in setting up a private Audiological clinic.

From 2006 to 2014 Janene worked in the University of Auckland Hearing and Tinnitus Clinic specialising in Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), both working clinically and tutoring students from the Master of Audiology Programme in APD clinical practice. Janene brings her specialist interest and skills to SoundSkills to continue providing assessment and best practice remedial support for children and families dealing with the challenges of auditory processing difficulties.

Janene has a special interest in the benefits of active musical training and APD, enjoying her own involvement with a cappella singing.

Janene is well recognised as one of New Zealand’s most experienced clinicians in the field of Auditory Processing.


Joanna Wallace


Joanna has been practicing as a clinical audiologist for the past 16 years. She has worked extensively in the areas of diagnostic audiology and rehabilitation for both children and adults in the public and private audiology sectors. During this time, she was involved in the implementation of the early intervention audiology service for the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme and spent time as Charge Audiologist at Counties Manukau District Health Board. Her interest in providing access to hearing care for those most at need led to her start the Manukau Health Trust Audiology Clinic and then subsequently an independent audiology clinic, that has recently become part of a nationwide hearing care group.

Joanna has experience working with children of all ages, cultures and backgrounds and has worked alongside many specialities and services including ENT Specialists, Paediatricians, Speech and Language Therapists and Ministry of Education Advisers on Deaf Children. She has a particular interest in working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, behavioural concerns and those with specific learning difficulties. This has led her to focus on working in the specialised area of Auditory Processing Disorders.

Joanna established the audiology clinic in Niue Island Foou Hospital in 2015. This provides upskilling of local healthcare workers as well as annual visiting audiology and hearing aid services to the local community. Joanna worked alongside the University of Auckland to help provide a screening service to all preschool and school age children on the Island and to assist in the integration of hearing health care into the ongoing local screening services.

Joanna has served as a Council Member for the National Foundation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing and is a certificated member of the New Zealand Audiological Society.


Jenny Coutts Dip Tchg, BEd, Grad Dip Lit Ed

Education Advisor

Jenny has 34 years’ experience as a primary school teacher, the last six years of which, she served as Deputy Principal and Special Education Needs Coordinator for her school.

Previously, Jenny had trained as a Resource Teacher for Literacy and worked in that role for two years, assisting children with literacy difficulties. As a Special Education Needs Coordinator, Jenny was responsible for services and care for all children with special needs in the school.

Jenny has undertaken additional special training in the management of Auditory Processing Disorder.


Karen Blackall PGDip Ed – Learning and Behaviour, B A, Dip Tchg Hearing Impaired, Dip Tchg

Education Advisor

Karen has 30+ years’ experience working across the primary, intermediate, secondary and tertiary education sectors both in New Zealand and England. Karen has held a range of teaching positions that are specialised in nature, most recently as a Resource Teacher, Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and a Resource Teacher, Deaf (RTD).

Karen has previously worked in senior management positions in schools including; Deputy Principal; Head of Department; Senior Teacher; and RTLB Practice Leader. She has worked with students, parents and teachers to collaboratively devise interventions, including for APD, to meet students’ individual needs – adapting the programme, scaffolding learning and using Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles to promote inclusion.

Karen is an experienced presenter at conferences, and facilitates professional learning for schools in a variety of areas including sensory, learning and behaviour challenges.


Sarah Lawton

Speech-Language Therapist

Sarah is a Speech and Language Therapist with a special interest in APD. She had previously worked in advertising as a copywriter before retraining and completing a Graduate Diploma in Psychology and Masters in Speech-Language Therapy (first class honours).

Sarah’s interest in APD began when she did her thesis on the subject and continued when she started working at the Ministry of Education – Special Education. In her role at the Ministry she worked with children under the age of 8 who had a variety of different needs. She also established relationships with primary schools and ran workshops with teachers, families and support staff. After four years she left to have her two children and went on to publish her APD research. During this time, she also started working part-time as a private therapist at Chatterbox Therapy with two fellow speech therapists.

Sarah enjoys collaborating with schools and families to create supportive environments for children with APD. She is now supporting Jenny Coutts as a part-time Education Advisor as well as continuing her role as a Speech-Language Therapist.


Dr Joan Leung

Specialist Adviser and Research Fellow: ASD and APD

Joan is a psychology graduate and researcher from the School of Psychology in the University of Auckland. Joan’s PhD research showed that providing auditory training plus hearing amplification with remote-microphone hearing aid systems can improve speech perception and social communication in children with autism. Joan splits her time between working on various research projects at the Universities of Auckland and Otago, and working as an autism specialist adviser and researcher at SoundSkills. Joan finds it very rewarding to work alongside the clinicians at SoundSkills with an aim to better serve their ever-expanding and diversifying client base, including children with more severe challenges.


Sam Marsh

Reception and Administration

Sam has worked in various administration roles and prior to joining SoundSkills in 2011 was an administrator in schools for 15 years. Sam started out as the sole administrator in SoundSkills in its early years not knowing anything about the world of Auditory Processing Disorders and the number of children and adults affected by this. Reading and research material has very much increased her knowledge in this subject. Sam loves meeting the families and can sometimes be seen surprising children with colourful crafts she has made.

Sam’s love of horses led Sam to Riding for the Disabled at Mangere’s Ambury Park, working with the children and adults who attended, and taking part in open days and events hosted at the centre. Sam is very much a homebody enjoying crafts, reading and movies: cooking … not so much, she says she is a disaster in the kitchen.


Sandra Olliff

Reception and Administration

Sandra loves the variety of working at Soundskills. She has worked in HR, Sales, and Service Administration, but it is her experience in the primary school sector as an administrator for 11 years that is especially helpful when assisting families. Sandra’s broad experience in administrative support means she is also our go to person for technology matters. Sandra has enjoyed the change to a clinical environment and the opportunity and challenge of learning about audiology and auditory processing.


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