There has been a huge upswing in public awareness of  Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), formerly known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).  Confusion surrounds what is (and isn’t) an APD, how APD is diagnosed, and methods of managing and treating the disorder. 

The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) states that “APD refers to how the central nervous system (CNS) uses auditory information”. Further, “it is important to emphasize that APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher-order cognitive, language, or related disorder”.

The Auditory Processing Disorder Foundation provides a helpful list of symptoms of APD can manifest in many different ways and can range from mild to severe. Some symptoms of APD include, but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty understanding in noisy environments
  • Difficulty following multi-task directions
  • Difficulty distinguishing between similar sounds
  • Language and/or speech delays
  • Often requiring repetition or clarification (as if there was a hearing problem present)
  • Easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises
  • Improved behavior and performance in quieter settings
  • Difficulty understanding abstract information
  • Difficulty with verbal math problems
  • Disorganized and forgetful
  • Have trouble or display poor memory for word and numbers
  • Have trouble understanding jokes, riddles or idioms
  • Show difficulty in expressive language
  • Seems to “tune out” when the conversation is complex or involves too many people
  • in school, they will often have difficulties with language, learning, reading and spelling 

Auditory processing disorders are a difficult disorder to detect and diagnosis and there are many other disorders that are often confused with APD. Specifically, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia and language processing disorders. The general consensus among audiologists is that it is not possible to diagnose a child under the age of 7.

APD can be suspected by parents, educators, and speech language pathologists but its specialized audiologists who make the formal diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).  While audiologists diagnose APD, it’s speech-language pathologists who prove effective in helping persons with APD, especially for children having difficult learning language in school.

There is no magic cure for APD and all literature reports the need for more studies in this area. Some of the strategies for helping children with APD are:

  • Auditory trainers are electronic devices that allow a person to focus attention on a speaker and reduce the interference of background noise. They are often used in classrooms, where the teacher wears a microphone to transmit sound and the child wears a headset to receive the sound. Children who wear hearing aids can use them in addition to the auditory trainer.
  • Environmental modifications such as classroom acoustics, placement, and seating may help. An audiologist may suggest ways to improve the listening environment, and he or she will be able to monitor any changes in hearing status.
  • Exercises to improve language-building skills can increase the ability to learn new words and increase a child’s language base.
  • Auditory memory enhancement, a procedure that reduces detailed information to a more basic representation, may help. Also, informal auditory training techniques can be used by teachers and therapists to address specific difficulties.
  • Auditory integration training is sometimes promoted by practitioners as a way to retrain the auditory system and decrease hearing distortion.

Learn more about classroom accommodations for children with auditory processing disorders here.

  • Difficulty hearing or understanding in background noise?
  • Misunderstands, especially with rapid or muffled speech?
  • Difficulty following spoken instructions?
  • Difficulty discriminating and identifying speech sounds?
  • Inconsistent responses to auditory information?
  • Poor listening skills?
  • Asks for things to be repeated?
  • Easily distracted?
  • Learning or academic difficulties?
  • Short attention span?
  • Daydreams, inattentive?
  • Disorganized?

(Taken from the  Scale of Auditory Behaviors)