Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Symptoms, Testing & Treatment

By: VocoVision

Auditory processing disorders affect millions of children across the country. Find out about the symptoms, how to assess your child for it, and possible treatments for this condition.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

An auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition that affects the way the brain hears and processes language. A person with APD may have typical results on a basic hearing test; however, their brain will not always process sounds or words appropriately. This condition may also be referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorder or CAPD. At one time, people who had this condition may have thought they had a hearing problem. However, the problem lies within processing the sounds being heard. The ear hears the sounds but sometimes cannot process where the sounds originate or decipher sounds when the environment is noisy. Let’s take a look at the causes, symptoms, and assessment of APD.

Auditory Processing Disorder Causes

Although there is limited concrete evidence, specific events may cause APD. Some of these possible causes include:

Frequent Ear Infections – Children with a history of ear infections can develop APD, as sounds come across as muffled. Over time, the brain misinterprets the sound, and auditory processing can be affected.

Premature Birth – Premature babies are at higher risk for developing APD later.

Extreme Fever – If babies have a fever over 105°, they are at higher risk for auditory processing issues.

Genetic History – Some parents of children with APD report having a similar condition themselves.

Traumatic Brain Injury – A TBI can cause many lasting effects, including those related to auditory processing.

Scientists still have a way to go in truly understanding auditory processing disorder, but can learn much by analyzing the possible causes.

Types of Auditory Processing Disorder

There are five basic auditory processing disorder types, and some people may experience more than one type. These include hypersensitivity, decoding, integration, prosodic, and organizational deficit.

Hypersensitivity – Hypersensitivity to sound is often diagnosed as misophonia or hyperacusis. Misophonia is when people have adverse physical reactions to sounds, such as becoming nauseated by the sound of chewing or slurping. Hyperacusis, on the other hand, is characterized by a sensitivity to sounds. For some, this means that white noise can be deafening, even causing physical pain.

Decoding – Decoding difficulties involve a lack of figuring out words that are spoken. They hear the sounds, but their brains do not process them as words.

Integration – Integration applies to those who struggle to do multiple things while listening. Such multi-tasking may be writing notes and listening, or having conversations while typing an email.

Prosodic – Prosodic refers to people who have trouble with tone, inflection, and implied meaning. A question and exclamation are processed identically in their brains. Their speech is also often monotone.

Organizational – Finally, organizational, or output, is often characterized by not recalling information in a specific order or having difficulty with noisy situations.

Auditory Processing Disorder Symptoms

Children with APD may show a wide range of symptoms. An auditory processing disorder checklist of symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty hearing in noisy situations.
  • Difficulty with sound discrimination
  • Challenges recalling information in order
  • Saying “huh,” “what,” or “I don’t understand” often.
  • Sometimes saying one of the above and then immediately responding appropriately
  • Challenges with reading
  • Hard to express themselves clearly
  • Looks to be listening but not hearing the actual words spoken
  • Difficulty with accents or people who speak significantly quicker than the sufferer
  • Trouble following conversations with multiple speakers or topics
  • Mispronunciations, confusing similar words

Auditory Processing Disorder Test

Children usually need to be at least 7 years old before being tested. Parents can initiate the testing process by requesting a specialist to assess their child, which can also be discussed at an IEP meeting. The person who tests for auditory processing disorder must be a certified audiologist. The audiologist test for APD may include typical hearing tests. However, it will often also ask individuals to decipher sounds with other background noises, measure tolerance of noises, and identify similar words or sounds. Children will also fill in missing words or word parts, and recall the order of words, syllables, sounds, or commands. The audiologist will determine whether these symptoms and results are truly an auditory processing disorder. The analysis takes some time, as specialists need to examine the data closely. If a diagnosis is made, the IEP team decides on appropriate accommodations, modifications, and recommendations for the student.

Auditory Processing Disorder Treatment

Several therapies and treatments may help, but the three most recommended are speech therapy, accommodations, and reinforcing other skills. These treatments are often done in conjunction with one another, as classroom accommodations for those with an auditory processing disorder diagnosis.

Speech Therapy

For many students, speech therapy can be an invaluable resource. While most people think that speech is only for speech delays, it can help people with auditory processing issues. They can learn to hear and discriminate between different sounds. Many people with auditory processing concerns will also have difficulty with speech because they do not hear sounds correctly. Speech therapy often comes as part of an IEP for auditory processing disorder, and is even more accessible with the advances of teletherapy available today. These services are designed to help improve auditory processing disorder in children to become more successful in the classroom.

Auditory Processing Disorder Classroom Support

There are many classroom accommodations that teachers and parents can make to minimize auditory processing troubles in the classroom. Each child is different and will respond uniquely. Some classroom intervention strategies are as follows:

  • Provide written instructions with auditory ones
  • Allow students extra time when answering questions
  • Speak at a slower pace if you usually speak rapidly
  • Give one-step directions when possible
  • Allow for visual cues in addition to auditory ones.

Reinforcing Other Skills

Children with an auditory processing disorder diagnosis often have other strengths. Allow your child to use the skills that are stronger to compensate. Provide students the opportunity to use art, music, or other skills to improve academic skills that suffer due to these challenges. Additionally, children can practice auditory processing disorder exercises – such as games and memory-building activities – outside of rigid, structured environments.

How to Help my Child with Auditory Processing Disorder

You can use the same classroom accommodations at home if you are homeschooling a child with auditory processing disorder. You will not cure your child’s APD, but you can help them feel less helpless by emphasizing their positive qualities. For another valuable resource, turn to VocoVision. Our at-home services are proven and reliable, and we are ready to assist your child throughout their learning.

If you’re a parent who thinks your child could benefit from speech therapy, then request a free consultation for your child through VocoVision’s At-Home Therapy Services.

Frequently Asked Questions About APD

Is Auditory Processing Disorder Curable?

The short answer is no. However, you can treat the disorder’s symptoms and make life feel less chaotic for your loved one.

What Is the Best Hearing Aid For APD?

Instead of standard hearing aids, many experts recommend an assistive listening device (ALD), which separates speech so that individuals can better differentiate it from background noise.

Does Auditory Processing Disorder Affect Reading?

It can. For many people, reading can be challenging because reading is connected to writing and hearing. However, just as deaf people can learn to read just fine, many other people do not notice lowered reading skills.

Are Auditory Processing Disorder and Autism connected?

Although there is no direct connection, many individuals with autism present symptoms of APD. Some of the social presentations of autism can overlap with individuals with APD, such as anxiety and confusion.

Are Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD connected?

Just as with Autism, ADHD and APD sometimes occur together. APD is also often mistaken as ADHD before diagnostic testing is done.

How are Auditory Processing Disorder and memory connected?

One of the issues some people have with APD is not being able to recall things in order. The lag in processing can slow memory recall.

When is Auditory Processing Disorder Day?

April 4 is APD awareness day.

Is Auditory Processing Disorder Genetic?

Many children with APD have family histories of auditory processing disorders. However, there is limited concrete evidence that APD is genetic.

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