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Learn About Auditory Processing Disorder

Article Written By: Victoria Mannella-Gupta

Does your child have difficulty following directions, understanding speech in noisy environments, or mistaking two similar sounding words?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is “the perceptual processing of auditory information in the central auditory nervous system (CANS) and the neurobiological activity that underlies that processing and gives rise to electrophysiologic auditory potentials” (ASHA, 2005)*. In other words, people with APD may hear perfectly fine, but the difficulty is what the brain does with what it hears.

What causes APD**?

  1. Genetic factors

  2. Neurological factors (brain injury, stroke etc.)

  3. Neuromaturation delay secondary to deafness/auditory deprivation

  4. Otologic disorder/disease/injury (having difficulty hearing sounds due to recurrent ear infections)

  5. Prenatal/neonatal factors (anoxia/hypoxia, low birth weight etc.)

APD can be difficult to diagnose at times since the symptoms overlap with other disorders. The following signs and symptoms of CAPD may include one or more of the following behavioral characteristics listed by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):

  • Difficulty localizing sound

  • Difficulty understanding spoken language in competing messages, in noisy backgrounds, in reverberant environments, or when presented rapidly

  • Taking longer to respond in oral communication situations

  • Frequent requests for repetitions, saying “what” and “huh” frequently

  • Inconsistent or inappropriate responding

  • Difficulty comprehending and following rapid speech

  • Difficulty following complex auditory directions or commands

  • Difficulty learning songs or nursery rhymes

  • Misunderstanding messages, such as detecting prosody changes that help to interpret sarcasm or jokes

  • Poor musical and singing skills

  • Difficulty paying attention

  • Being easily distracted

  • Poor performance on speech and language or psychoeducational tests in the areas of auditory-related skills

  • Associated reading, spelling, and learning problems

  • Difficulty learning a new language

What should I do if I suspect my child has APD?

  • In Canada, Audiologists can screen, assess, diagnose and help manage APD.

  • Speech-Language Pathologists can assess expressive and receptive language and help manage APD.

Unfortunately, APD can often be misdiagnosed as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). If you are concerned that your child may have APD, reach out to your local audiologist for an assessment. At Empower, we look forward to working with your child on processing what they hear. We can also help implement specific strategies into the classroom to help your child reach their full potential!

*, **American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2005). (Central) auditory processing disorders—the role of the audiologist [Position Statement]. Available from

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