Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a complex problem affecting about 5% of school-aged children. These kids can't process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and brain don't fully coordinate. Something adversely affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.
Kids with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. These kinds of problems usually occur in background noise, which is a natural listening environment. So kids with APD have the basic difficulty of understanding any speech signal presented under less than optimal conditions.
Kids with APD are thought to hear normally because they can usually detect pure tones that are delivered one by one in a very quiet environment (such as a sound-treated room). Those who can normally detect sounds and recognize speech in ideal listening conditions are not considered to have hearing difficulties.
However, the ability to detect the presence of sounds is only one part of the processing that occurs in the auditory system. So, most kids with APD do not have a loss of hearing sensitivity, but have a hearing problem in the sense that they do not process auditory information normally.
If the auditory deficits aren't identified and managed early, many of these kids will have speech and language delays and academic problems.
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, consider these questions:
APD is an often misunderstood problem because many of the behaviors noted above also can appear in other conditions like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression. Although APD is often confused with ADHD, it is possible to have both. It is also possible to have APD and specific language impairment or learning disabilities.
The causes of APD are unknown. But evidence suggests links to head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections. Because there are many different possibilities — even combinations of causes — each child must be assessed individually.
Audiologists (hearing specialists) can determine if a child has APD. Although speech-language pathologists can get an idea by interacting with the child, only audiologists can perform auditory processing testing and determine if there really is a problem.
Some of the skills a child needs to be evaluated for auditory processing disorder don't develop until age 7 or 8. Younger kids' brains just haven't matured enough to accept and process a lot of information. So, many kids diagnosed with APD can develop better skills with time.
Once diagnosed, kids with APD usually work with a speech therapist. The audiologist will also recommend that they return for yearly follow-up evaluations.
The five main problem areas that can affect both home and school activities in kids with APD are:
Strategies applied at home and school can ease some of the problem behaviors associated with APD. Because it's common for kids with CAPD to have difficulty following directions, for example, these tactics might help:
It's especially important to teach your child to notice noisy environments, for example, and move to quieter places when listening is necessary.
Other strategies that might help:
Be sure to keep in regular contact with school officials about your child's progress. Kids with APD aren't typically put in special education programs. Instead, teachers can make it easier by:
One of the most important things that both parents and teachers can do is to acknowledge that CAPD is real. Symptoms and behaviors are not within the child's control. What is within the child's control is recognizing the problems associated with APD and applying 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. Although some children do grow up to be adults with APD, by using coping strategies as well as techniques learned in speech therapy, they can be very successful adults.
Reviewed by: Thierry Morlet, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2011
|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.|
|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 that makes sound disorganized when it reaches the brain.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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