Sensory Disturbances

Auditory Processing Disorder or central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).


People with APD are thought to hear normally because they can usually hear sounds that are delivered one at a time in a very quiet environment, such as a sound-treated room. The problem is that they usually don’t recognize slight differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard.

These kinds of problems usually happen when there is background noise, which is often the case in social situations. So people with APD can have trouble understanding what is being said to them when they’re in noisy places like a Walmart, sports events, restaurants, and parties.


Signs & Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?

Symptoms of APD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think your loved one might have a problem processing sounds, ask yourself:

  • Is my loved one easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud or sudden noises?
  • Are noisy environments upsetting to my loved one?
  • Does my loved ones behavior and performance improve in quieter settings?
  • Does my loved one have trouble following directions, whether simple or complicated?
  • Does my loved one have reading, spelling, writing, or other speech-language difficulties?
  • Are verbal (word) math problems hard for my loved one?
  • Is my loved one forgetful or disorganized?
  • Are conversations hard for my loved one to follow?

What Causes Auditory Processing Disorder?

Often, the cause of your loved ones APD isn’t known. Evidence suggests that head trauma, lead poisoning, and chronic ear infections could play a role. Sometimes, there can be more than one cause.


How Is Auditory Processing Disorder Diagnosed?

If you think your loved one is having trouble hearing or understanding when people talk, have an audiologist (hearing specialist) examine your loved one. Only audiologists can diagnose auditory processing disorder.

Audiologists look for five main problem areas in patients with APD:

  1. Auditory figure-ground problems: This is when a patient can’t pay attention if there’s noise in the background. Noisy, loosely structured environments could be very frustrating.
  2. Auditory memory problems: This is when a patient has trouble 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”).
  3. Auditory discrimination problems: This is when a patient has trouble hearing the difference between similar words or sounds (COAT/BOAT or CH/SH). This can affect following directions and reading, spelling, and writing skills, among others.
  4. Auditory attention problems: This is when a patient can’t stay focused on listening long enough to complete a task (such as listening to a lecture in school). Patients with CAPD often have trouble maintaining attention, although health, motivation, and attitude also can play a role.
  5. 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 — need heightened auditory processing and language levels. They develop best when all the other skills (levels 1 through 4 above) are intact.

At Home

Strategies to ease some of the problem behaviors associated with APD.

People with APD often have trouble following directions, so these suggestions may help:

  • Reduce background noise whenever possible.
  • Have your loved one look at you when you’re speaking.
  • Use simple, expressive sentences.
  • Speak at a slightly slower rate and at a mildly increased volume.
  • Ask your loved one to repeat the directions back to you and to keep repeating them aloud (to you or to himself or herself) until the directions are completed.
  • For directions that are to be completed later, writing notes, wearing a watch, or maintaining a household routine can help. So can general organization and scheduling.
  • It can be frustrating for people with APD when they’re in a noisy setting and need to listen. Move to quieter places when listening is necessary.
  • Maintain a peaceful, organized lifestyle.
  • Encourage good eating and sleeping habits.

Adapted from: KidsHealth

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