Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a hearing problem that affects about 5% of school-aged children.
Kids with this condition can't process what they hear in the same way other kids do because their ears and brain don't fully coordinate. Something interferes with the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech.
With the right therapy, kids with APD can be successful in school and life. Early diagnosis is important, because when the condition isn't caught and treated early, a child can have speech and language delays or problems learning in school.
Kids with APD are thought to hear normally because they can usually hear sounds that are delivered one at a time in a very quiet environment (such as a sound-treated room). The problem is that they usually don't recognize slight differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard.
These kinds of problems usually happen when there is background noise, which is often the case in social situations. So kids with APD can have trouble understanding what is being said to them when they're in noisy places like a playground, sports events, the school cafeteria, and parties.
Symptoms of APD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think your child might have a problem processing sounds, ask yourself these questions:
APD is often misunderstood because many of the behaviors noted above also can accompany other problems, like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression.
If you think your child is having trouble hearing or understanding when people talk, have an audiologist (hearing specialist) exam your child. Only audiologists can diagnose auditory processing disorder.
Audiologists look for five main problem areas in kids with APD:
Since most of the tests done to check for APD require a child to be at least 7 or 8 years old, many kids aren't diagnosed until then or later.
A child's auditory system isn't fully developed until age 15. So, many kids diagnosed with APD can develop better skills over time as their auditory system matures. While there is no known cure, speech-language therapy and assistive listening devices can help kids make sense of sounds and develop good communication skills.
A frequency modulation (FM) system is a type of assistive listening device that reduces background noise and makes a speaker's voice louder so a child can understand it. The speaker wears a tiny microphone and a transmitter, which sends an electrical signal to a wireless receiver that the child wears either on the ear or elsewhere on the body. It's portable and can be helpful in classroom settings.
A crucial part of making the FM system effective is ongoing therapy with a speech-language pathologist, who will help the child develop speaking and hearing skills. The speech-language pathologist or audiologist also may recommend tutoring programs.
Several computer-assisted programs are geared toward children with APD. They mainly help the brain do a better job of processing sounds in a noisy environment. Some schools offer these programs, so if your child has APD, be sure to ask school officials about what may be available.
Strategies applied at home and school can ease some of the problem behaviors associated with APD.
Kids with APD often have trouble following directions, so these suggestions may help:
Other tips that might help:
It's important for the people caring for your child to know about APD. Be sure to tell teachers and other school officials about the APD and how it may affect learning. Kids with APD aren't typically put in special education programs, but you may find that your child is eligible for a 504 plan through the school district that would outline any special needs for the classroom.
Some things that may help:
Keep in regular contact with school officials about your child's progress. One of the most important things that both parents and teachers can do is to acknowledge that APD is real. Its symptoms and behaviors are not something that a child can control. What the child can control is recognizing the problems associated with APD and using the strategies recommended both at home and school.
A positive, realistic attitude and healthy self-esteem in a child with APD can work wonders. And kids with APD can go on to be just as successful as other classmates. Coping strategies and techniques learned in speech therapy can help them go far.
Reviewed by: Thierry Morlet, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2014
|Otolaryngology Resources on the Internet Recommended resources from the Bobby R. Alford Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Communicative Sciences.|
|American Speech-Language-Hearing Association This group provides services for professionals in audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech and hearing science, and advocates for people with communication disabilities.|
|Speech and Language Impairments Special Needs Factsheet What teachers should know about speech and language impairments, and how to help students with impairments succeed in school.|
|What Is ADHD? Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood behavioral disorder, but it can be difficult to diagnose and even harder to understand. Here's information about what to do if your child has ADHD.|
|Head Injuries Head injuries fall into two categories: external and internal. Learn more about both kinds, how to prevent them, and what to do if your child is injured.|
|Speech-Language Therapy Working with a certified speech-language pathologist can help a child with speech or language difficulties.|
|Hearing Evaluation in Children Hearing problems can be treated if they're caught early, so it's important to get your child's hearing screened early and evaluated regularly.|
|Hearing Impairment Hearing impairment occurs when there's a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. The degree of impairment can vary widely. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.|
|Speech Problems Do you know someone who stutters or has another speech disorder? Find out how speech disorders are treated, how you can help a friend or classmate cope, and lots more.|
|Delayed Speech or Language Development Knowing what's "normal" and what's not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.|
|Going to a Speech Therapist You might visit a speech therapist if you're having trouble speaking or understanding others. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Going to the Audiologist When a kid has trouble hearing, an audiologist can help. That's a person specially trained to understand how hearing works and to help kids who don't hear normally.|
|Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD) Some kids have hearing loss due to auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD), a problem in the transmission of sound from the inner ear to the brain.|
|Auditory Processing Disorder Special Needs Factsheet What teachers should know about APD, and teaching strategies to help students who have the disorder.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.