About Auditory Processing Disorder
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:
- Is your child easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
- Are noisy environments upsetting to your child?
- Does your child's behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
- Does your child have difficulty following directions, whether simple or complicated?
- Does your child have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
- Is abstract information difficult for your child to comprehend?
- Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
- Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
- Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
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.