What is Central Auditory Processing Disorder? Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a hearing deficiency that does not allow those afflicted to distinguish sounds that can be heard by those with regular hearing. When a sound occurs, the sound is taken into the inner ear and delivered to the brain and the brain translates what is being heard. When a person is deaf, the part of the ear that delivers the sound to the brain does not function. When a person has central auditory processing Disorder (CAPD), the part of the brain that translates what the ear delivers does not function properly. The person with CAPD can hear sounds, but how the brain translates the sound is incorrect, and the end result is a garbled message. People who have CAPD have normal hearing, so they are not considered hearing impaired. The neurological processing of the sounds they hear is impaired, which is why it’s called a processing disorder. Research is developing paths of opportunity to correct this problem, and your Royal Arch Research Assistance (R.A.R.A.) contributions support these efforts.
Symptoms 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:
- 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?
- Are verbal (word) math problems difficult for your child?
- Is your child disorganized and forgetful?
- Are conversations hard for your child to follow?
Diagnosis 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:
- 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 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 (levels 1 through 4 above) 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.
If the auditory deficits aren't identified and managed, many students with APD will face academic challenges. Students with APD can benefit from working with a speech and language therapist, in addition to getting regular evaluations by audiologists.