Auditory Processing Disorder: Symptoms, Causes & Diagnosis


Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is a hearing problem that is usually found in school-going children. Kids with this condition fail to process what they hear in the same way as other kids do, because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate with each other. Something interferes with the way their brain recognizes and interprets sounds, especially speech. In this article, we will discuss everything related to auditory processing disorder, their causes, symptoms, and diagnosis. We will also provide tips on how you, as a parent or an elder, can help your child. Read on to find out everything that you need to know about Auditory processing disorder (APD).

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In this article:

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder
Causes of Auditory Processing Disorder
Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder
Helping Your Child

All You Need to Know about Auditory Processing Disorder

Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder

Symptoms of this disorder can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think your child might have a problem processing sounds, then do ask yourself these following questions:

  • Is your child distracted or bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Are noisy environments upsetting your child in some way or the other?
  • Do your child’s behavior and performance improve in settings, which are relatively quiet?
  • Does your child have difficulty following directions?
  • Does your child have reading, writing or other speech-language difficulties?
  • Are verbal math problems difficult for your child?
  • Is your child disorganized and more often than not forgetful?
  • Are conversations hard for your child to follow, regardless of how easy or difficult it is?

auditory processing disorder

APD is often misunderstood by people, because many of the behaviors noted above also can accompany other problems, such as learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression in certain cases.

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Causes of Auditory Processing Disorder

Often, the cause of a child’s APD remains unknown. Doctors usually suggest causes such as head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections, that could play a role.

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Diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder

If you think your child is having trouble hearing or understanding when people are talking, then definitely have an audiologist (hearing specialist) examine your child. Only audiologists can diagnose auditory processing disorder, other medical professionals might get confused. Audiologists usually look for five main problem areas in kids with APD:

Auditory Figure-Ground Problems

This is when a child can’t pay attention if there’s noise in the background. Noisy, loosely structured classrooms could be very frustrating.

Auditory Memory Problems

This is when a child has difficulty remembering information such as directions, lists, or study materials. It can be immediate (“I can’t remember it now”) and/or delayed (“I can’t remember it when I need it for later”).

Auditory Discrimination Problems

This is when a child has difficulty hearing the difference between words or sounds that are similar (COAT/BOAT or CH/SH). This can affect activities like following directions and reading, spelling, and writing skills, among others.

Auditory Attention Problems

This is when a child can’t stay focused on listening long enough to complete a task or requirement (such as listening to a lecture in school). Kids with CAPD often have trouble maintaining attention, although health, motivation, and attitude also can play a role.


Auditory Cohesion Problems

This is when higher-level listening tasks are difficult. Auditory cohesion skills, drawing inferences from conversations, understanding riddles, or comprehending verbal math problems require heightened auditory processing and language levels. They develop best when all the other skills are intact.

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.

Helping Your Child

  • Many kids diagnosed with APD can develop better skills over time, as they grow up and as their auditory system matures. While there is no known cure for this disorder, speech-language therapy and assistive listening devices can help these kids make sense of sounds and develop good communication skills with practice.
  • A frequency modulation (FM) system is a type of assistive listening device that reduces background noise and also makes a speaker’s voice louder, so that a child with this disorder 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 is usually 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.

Therefore, to conclude, there is no substantial harm if your child has APD. It is something that can be easily corrected if diagnosed on time. But most importantly, it is important to provide ample love and care to your kid, so that they don’t feel bad about it and learn to face the difficult challenges.


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