A Quick Introduction to Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. The person with Central Auditory Processing Disorder hears sounds correctly but something adversely affects the way their brain recognizes and interprets the sounds, especially the sounds associated with speech. The disorder is thus characterized by a lack of coordination between the ears and the brain.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition that afflicts an estimated 2% to 5% of children of school age, and as many as 50% of children who have been diagnosed as having a learning disability. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often cannot discern the sounds of different words even when the words are spoken loud and clear. This inability to understand words often becomes worse in noisy environments, but is not as present in quiet environments.

This can make Central Auditory Processing Disorder hard to detect. A child that can hear and intrepret speech well in a quiet environment will generally have no problems passing a hearing test administered in a quiet environment. But even though their audiogram results may appear normal, children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often have difficulty locating where sounds are coming from, difficulty discerning the differences between two similar sounds, difficulty recognizing patterns of repetitive high and low sounds, and difficulty being able to hear more than one person speaking at the same time.

These symptoms may carry over into other areas of life, as the children struggle to cope with not being able to understand people speaking to them. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder may have difficulty following directions or following conversation, may develop reading and language problems, may appear forgetful and disorganized, and may be easily distracted by sudden noises. Since standard hearing test for these children often yield normal results, these indicators are often mistaken for other disorders such as ADHD or depression. In reality, CAPD can be present alone or combined with these other disorders, presenting a difficult diagnostic challenge.

Properly detecting and diagnosing CAPD as eary in a child’s life as possible is crucial to avoid developmental delays both social and academic. A standard hearing test doesn’t rule out CAPD. If you detect any of these signs in your children, schedule a professional hearing test that can replicate the conditions where the child struggles.

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