What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

People with APD or Auditory Processing Disorder have difficulty hearing minor sound alterations in words. When someone says, "Raise your hand, please," you might hear something like, "Haze your plan, please." You tell your kid, "Look at the cows over there," and they might listen to, "Look at the clown in the chair."

APD, or Auditory Processing Disorder, is a hearing issue that influences about three to five percent of school-aged kids.

auditory processing disorder

This condition is also known as CAPD or Central Auditory Processing Disorder. Children with this ailment cannot wholly understand whatever they hear the way other kids do. This is because their brain and ears don't seem to coordinate entirely. Something obstructs how the brain distinguishes and understands sounds, especially verbal speech.

With the correct strategies, children with Auditory Processing Disorder can be successful in educational institutions and life. Early diagnosis is essential. If the disorder is not identified and managed promptly, the child may be at risk for learning and listening problems at school and at home.

Auditory Processing Disorder is not a hearing loss or a learning illness. It means your child's brain doesn't "listen" to the sounds in the usual way. APD is not a difficulty with understanding the meaning of the words.

People of every age can have Auditory Processing Disorders. It usually starts in infancy, but some people can also develop it later. Around 2% to 7% of kids have APD, and males are more likely to have APD than females. This disorder can lead to learning deferrals, so children with APD might need additional help in school.

Auditory Processing Disorder may be linked to other disorders that cause similar signs. It may be partially the reason some people also have dyslexia. And some professionals think children are at times diagnosed with ADHD when in reality, they have APD.

Trouble Understanding Speech:

Kids with Auditory Processing Disorder are believed to sense sound naturally as they typically can hear sounds that are produced one at a time in a tranquil environment, for example, a sound-treated room. The issue is that they frequently can't easily distinguish slight differences between the sounds in words, even when they are loud enough to be heard.

These difficulties usually happen in a poor listening environment, like when there's a lot of background noise or in an echoing room like a hall — which is often the case in social places. Children with APD can have trouble interpreting what is being said, especially when they're in noisier areas like a playground, classroom, school cafeteria, sports event, or party.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder can affect how your kid speaks and their ability to write, spell and read. They might drop the ends of their words or mix up sounds.

It also can be difficult for them to talk to other people. They might not be able to understand what others are saying and cannot come up with a response immediately.

Children may also find it hard to:

  1. Know where a specific sound came from
  2. Remember spoken directions, especially if there are several steps
  3. Follow conversations
  4. Understand what people are saying, particularly in a loud place or when more than one person is talking
  5. Listen to music


Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder can range from slight to acute and take several forms. If you think your kid might have an issue processing sounds, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does my kid often mishear words and sounds?
  2. Are chats hard for my child to follow?
  3. Are noisy surroundings overwhelming for my child when they are trying to listen?
  4. Are verbal math problems difficult for my child?
  5. Do my child's performance and listening behaviors improve in a quieter environment?
  6. Does my child have issues with phonics or spelling?
  7. Does my child have difficulty following verbal instructions, whether complicated or simple?

Auditory Processing Disorder is often misinterpreted because many of its signs are similar to those found in several other disorders. Also, APD indicators can be hidden by other issues, like depression, speech-language delays, ADHD, and learning disabilities.

Auditory attention problems, sound sensitivity, and auditory memory deficits are not symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder but also might involve trouble with using listening information correctly. Consulting an audiologist and other related medical specialists can help the parents understand their children and their conditions.


Frequently, the cause of a child's Auditory Processing Disorder is unknown. Evidence shows that children with chronic ear infections, lead poisoning, head trauma, or seizure disorder are more at risk for APD. Occasionally, there can be more than one cause for APD.

Doctors and medical specialists don't know what exactly causes Auditory Processing Disorder, but it can be linked to:

  1. Genes (Auditory Processing Disorder may run in families).
  2. Premature birth or low weight.
  3. Illnesses. Auditory Processing Disorder can occur after chronic meningitis, lead poisoning, or ear infections. Some children with nervous system diseases, like multiple sclerosis, can also develop APD.
  4. Head injury.

How Is APD Diagnosed?

If you think your kid is having trouble understanding or hearing when someone talks, have a hearing specialist or an audiologist examine them. Only audiologists can identify APD.

The most common method to diagnose Auditory Processing Disorder is to use a specific collection of listening examinations. Audiologists often inspect for these main problem areas in children with Auditory Processing Disorder:

Auditory figure-ground is when a child has trouble interpreting speech when there is background noise. Noisy, open-air, or loosely structured classrooms can irritate a child with Auditory Processing Disorder.

Auditory closure is when a kid can't "fill the gaps" of speech when it is more perplexing. This can happen in a quieter environment but is more frequent when the speaker's voice is hushed or too fast, making it hard for the kid to make sense of the words and sounds.

Most traditional Auditory Processing Disorder tests require the child to be at least seven years old. So, most kids are diagnosed after first grade or even much later. Newer electrophysiology tests can give some initial information about the auditory system in children younger than seven years old.


Your usual doctor can do a hearing examination to see if your child's problems are caused by hearing loss. Still, only an auditory specialist, known as an audiologist, can diagnose Auditory Processing Disorder.

The audiologist will do a sequence of advanced hearing and listening tests in which your kid will have to listen to different sounds and acknowledge them when they hear them. For example, they might have to repeat them or push a button to signal. The doctor might also attach painless electrodes to your child's head and ears to evaluate how their brain reacts to the specific sounds.

Kids usually aren't examined for Auditory Processing Disorder until they're seven because their reactions to the listening tests might not be accurate if they're younger than seven.


There's no known cure for Auditory Processing Disorder, and the treatment is particular to each person. But it usually concentrates on the following areas:

Classroom support: Devices like frequency modulation (FM) systems can help your kid hear their teacher clearly. And the teachers can suggest practices to help them focus their attention in class, like sitting at the front of their class and preventing background noise.

Making other skills stronger: Factors like problem-solving, memory and other educative skills can help your kid deal with Auditory Processing Disorder.

Therapy: Speech and therapy can help your kid recognize specific sounds and improve conversational skills. And reading assistance that focuses on particular areas where your youngster has trouble can also be helpful.

You can make a couple of changes at your home, too. Cover the hard floors with rugs or carpets to reduce echoes and resonances, and limit the use of the radio, television, and other noisy devices.

How Can Parents and Teachers Help?

The auditory system in a human isn't fully developed until children are around 14 years old. Many children diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder can develop better aural skills with time as their auditory system develops with age.

There's no known cure yet, but different tactics may help your child with listening and improve the auditory system's growth with time, especially when the ways are started at younger ages. These can include:

  1. Physical adjustments to improve the listening settings.
  2. Help from other experts to manage non-listening signs.
  3. Individual therapies
  4. Speech-language therapy for language insufficiencies.
  5. Occupational therapy to assist with auditory timing concerns or sensory issues.
  6. Art or music therapy to build self-confidence.
  7. Counseling to help with anxiety or depression.

One standard physical adjustment is a remote microphone method, previously known as an FM or frequency modulation device. This assistive listening system accentuates a speaker's voice over any background noise, making the speech clearer so that a child with ADP can clearly understand it. The person talking carries a tiny microphone transmitter that sends a signal to a speaker box or a wireless receiver that the ADP kid wears on their ear.

Physical adaptations often enhance a kid's access to talking and listening. Optimizing speech means decreasing the interference of other factors, like background buzz, sight and sound distractions, and lousy classroom acoustics. In a classroom, for instance, the teacher may speak clearly, slow down their speech, and consciously seat the kid where they can hear and see the teacher better.

Some individualized treatments also may help children improve the development of their hearing pathway. These are usually suggested by the audiologist based on the tests' concerns and outcomes. Several computer-assisted systems are geared toward children with Auditory Processing Disorder. They mainly help the child's brain do a better job of interpreting sounds in a noisy setting.

Approaches used at home and school can ease some of the concerns associated with Auditory Processing Disorder.

At Home

At home, these strategies can help your child:

  1. Lessen background noise whenever you can.
  2. Have your kid look at you when you are speaking. This helps give them visual clues to fill in the missing speech info.
  3. Use strategies like giving your child simple oral directions with fewer words, or a keyword to identify and fewer steps.
  4. Speak clearly and at a slightly slower speed. Louder does not always help.
  5. Ask your kid to repeat the instructions back to you to guarantee that they understand.
  6. You can also write notes, keep a chore list or chart, use calendars, and maintain routines.
  7. Many children with APD find using close captions on computer programs and TV helpful.

Most importantly, remind your kid there's nothing to be embarrassed of. Be patient with them. This is hard for your kid, and the process takes time. Your child needs love, understanding, and patience, while they work toward their success.

At School:

Teachers and school staff might not know a lot about Auditory Processing Disorder and how it can affect a child's learning. Sharing this information with them and discussing it can help build an understanding of APD.

Auditory Processing Disorder is not technically acknowledged as a learning disability, and children with APD aren't generally put in special education courses. Depending on a child's degree of struggle in school, they may be qualified for an accommodation plan that would define any special needs a child with APD requires for the classroom.

Other helpful accommodations are:

  1. Preferential or strategic seating, so the child with APD is closest to the main speaker. This reduces sight and sound distractions and enhances the child's access to speech.
  2. Pre-teaching unfamiliar or new words.
  3. Visual help.
  4. Recorded lessons for later revises.
  5. Computer-assisted systems are designed for children with Auditory Processing Disorder.

Keep in touch with the school staff about your child's development. One of the most significant things that teachers and parents can do is recognize that the APD symptoms your child has are genuine. APD behaviors and symptoms are not those that a child can manage. With the help of caring adults, your child can recognize the difficulties caused by Auditory Processing Disorder and use the methods recommended for school and home.

A positive, genuine attitude and healthy self-confidence in a kid with APD can work miracles. Children with APD can be just as successful as their peers. With support, patience, and love, the children can do anything they work at.

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