by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed. and Susie S. Loraine, M.A., CCC-SLP
What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?
We hear when sound travels through the ear and changes into electrical information
interpreted by the brain. Auditory processing describes the process of our brains
recognizing and interpreting sound. Auditory processing disorder (APD) refers to
a breakdown of auditory information beyond the physical ability to hear, at the
level of the central nervous system. Therefore, central auditory processing disorder
(CAPD) is another widely-used term for APD (National Institute on Deafness and Other
Communication Disorders, 2004, ¶ 3).
Children with APD may have difficulty recognizing subtle differences between sounds
in words or may have difficulty with interpretation of longer strands of auditory
information, such as verbal directions. Regardless, children with APD often have
significantly increased difficulty in the presence of background noise.
Although children with attention deficit disorder, autism, pervasive development
disorder, and other such global deficits may demonstrate poor listening skills,
they do not necessarily have APD. Other disorders such as these often affect a child’s
ability to attend to and interpret auditory information because they usually affect
the same areas of the central nervous system—which can make differential diagnosis
quite challenging. However, APD is not a symptom, nor a result of such high-order,
global deficits (Bellis, n.d., ¶ 2).
Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder
The cause of APD is still unknown. Because other disorders may demonstrate similar
symptoms, it is necessary for an audiologist to use several tests to determine an
actual diagnosis of APD (Bellis, n.d., ¶ 6). However, all children with APD
do not have the same strengths and weaknesses. A child with APD may vary drastically
from another child with APD in terms of specific abilities. Therefore, it is imperative
that a multi-disciplinary team use a battery of assessment procedures to determine
specific strengths, weaknesses, and treatment procedures for a child with APD. This
team may include an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, psychologist, educator,
pediatrician, or other related professionals.
Common Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder
You may notice that children with APD have trouble paying attention to material
presented orally; have problems performing multi-step directions; have poor listening
skills; need extended time to process information; have low academic performance;
have behavior problems; have some form of language difficulty; and have difficulty
with reading, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary (NIDCD, 2004, ¶ 6).
Treatment of Auditory Processing Disorder
Remember that all children with APD are not the same. Below are some common strategies
and techniques to help children with APD, but keep in mind that successful strategies
and tools may vary significantly for each child. Several strategies you may hear
- Auditory trainers—The teacher wears a microphone to
transmit sound, and the student wears a headset to receive the sound. This strategy
cuts out any extraneous noise and lets the child focus solely on what the teacher
- Environmental modifications—A change in seating
placement and classroom acoustics may improve the listening environment.
- Exercises to improve language-building skills—These activities
increase the ability to learn new words and broaden a child’s language base.
Auditory memory enhancement—This method reduces the
number of details presented in information to a few at a time.
You can find more information about APD from the organizations in the list below.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders — http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/auditory.asp
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association — http://www.asha.org/default.htm
American Academy of Audiology — www.audiology.org