Central Auditory Processing Disorder affects up to 5% of school-aged children. These students cannot process the information they hear and are usually characterized as “poor listeners”. They have normal hearing ability, but there is a disconnect between what is heard and what is understood. These children’s brains interpret sounds differently than those of others. Only audiologists can diagnose auditory processing disorder.
Audiologists look for five main problem areas in children with auditory processing disorder:
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.
Possible Signs and Symptoms
- Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
- Frequently misunderstands oral instructions/questions
- Says “huh” or “what” frequently
- Often needs directions or information repeated
- Difficulty remembering spoken information
- Difficulty with reading, comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing, or learning a foreign language
- Difficulty with phonics or distinguishing speech sounds
- Difficulty with organizational skills
- Difficulty following multi-step directions
- Difficulty maintaining focus on an activity if other sounds are present or child is easily distracted by other sounds in the environment
- Difficulty following long conversations
- Difficulty taking notes
- Difficulty with verbal (word) math problems