Understanding the Signs of Auditory Processing Disorders

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How APDs impact all aspects of communication without appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD or simply APD) affects the ability of the brain to recognise and interpret words and other sounds. Auditory processing occurs when the brain's auditory nerve receives sounds from the ears. While most people who have CAPD hear sounds normally, the nervous system cannot always decipher what these sounds mean. 

Auditory processing disorders affect up to 5% of school-age children. Understanding the signs of CAPD allows parents, guardians and teachers to seek support when they suspect their child has auditory processing challenges. Early intervention is associated with improved outcomes in school and other pursuits.

What causes CAPD?

CAPD is actually an umbrella term to describe various deficits that impact auditory processing. These issues can affect several areas on the neural pathway—from the cochlea, which converts sound vibrations to electrical signals, to the auditory cortex, where the brain interprets and assigns meaning to the sounds we hear (Figure 1).

Scientific diagram of the different parts of the human ear.

Researchers don't know exactly why some children have difficulty interpreting sounds. Possible causes of CAPD include:

History of illness, such as chronic ear infections that cause middle ear inflammation. Researchers theorise that children who have frequent infections do not develop the full ability to interpret verbal information because of the inflammation and associated symptoms.

  • Meningitis, an inflammation of the meninges surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This disease may compress and damage areas of the brain responsible for auditory processing
  • History of head trauma
  • Low birth weight
  • Lead poisoning

The complexity of hearing, which involves many distinct brain areas and neural pathways, makes it difficult to isolate a sole cause of CAPD. Issues affecting any of these areas or paths can potentially result in this deficit. 

What are the signs of auditory processing issues?

If your child has trouble interpreting and understanding the sounds they hear, you may notice difficulty with:

Tasks that involve listening, especially in settings with background sounds and bustling activity

  • Following directions in the presence of distractions
  • Remembering instructions they hear out loud
  • Telling the difference between letters that sound alike (e.g., “K” and “G,” “T” and “D”)
  • Remembering to pronounce the beginnings and ends of words when reading

CAPD can manifest as diverse problems with communication, listening, learning, reading, and writing, so you may consider an evaluation for auditory processing if your child struggles in any of these areas. 

How is CAPD diagnosed?

Often, parents first become aware of a potential auditory processing disorder when their child starts school. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment support successful classroom education. Even before your child reaches school-age, visit your GP or paediatrician if your child has displayed signs or symptoms of APD. You should also schedule an appointment if your child’s teacher has noticed any of the signs above. 

The doctor may recommend taking your child to an audiologist for a hearing test along with an auditory processing assessment. The audiologist will ask your child to listen to and repeat words and sounds, sometimes using equipment that adds music, static, or other background noise.

Specialised audiological testing evaluates different areas of auditory function, such as:

  • Hearing acuity
  • Ability to discriminate sounds in quiet and noisy backgrounds
  • Ability to localise multiple simultaneous sounds and speakers 
  • Awareness of phonemes
  • Ability to remember information they hear and place details in the correct order
  • Ability to interpret information heard from different sources at the same time

Your child's audiologist will provide details about all hearing and auditory processing assessments and fully explain the results of these tests. They may also consult with your child's teacher and other professionals, such as psychologists and speech pathologists.

What treatments are available for CAPD?

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Therapeutic treatments for auditory processing disorder may include:

  • Hearing training, including noise and spatial exercises, to help your child process information in the presence of competing distractions by building stronger neural pathways
  • Therapies to improve the ability to hear, comprehend, and remember sounds
  • Modifications to the school and home settings
  • Education and listening strategies to compensate for processing issues
  • Assistive listening technology

Auditory processing skills provide the foundation for successful academic and social success. The Sound Storm app is clinically proven to remediate a form of APD called spatial processing disorder by retraining the brain to listen. For successful outcomes, children must play two games per day on the app for five days a week over ten to twelve weeks. With this commitment, Sound Storm has a 100% success rate for SPD treatment. Try this solution today by downloading the Sound Storm app for your Android or iOS device.