The hearing disorder called Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD (also called Auditory Processing Disorder, or APD) is not based on an inability to hear sounds correctly with the ears, but on the brain’s inability to process and interpret these sounds. People with Central Auditory Processing Disorder have no difficulty hearing sounds – especially speech – but, their brains don’t interpret the sound inputs correctly. The disorder is thus characterized by a lack of coordination between the ears and the brain.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition that afflicts an estimated 2% to 5% of children of school age, and as many as 50% of children who have been diagnosed as having a learning disability. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often cannot discern the sounds of different words even when the words are spoken loud and clear. This inability to understand words often becomes worse in noisy environments, but is not as present in quiet environments.

This can make CAPD hard to detect. A child that can hear and intrepret speech well in a quiet environment will generally have no problems passing a hearing test administered in a quiet environment. But even though their audiogram results may appear normal, children with CAPD often have difficulty locating where sounds are coming from, difficulty discerning the differences between two similar sounds, difficulty recognizing patterns of repetitive high and low sounds, and difficulty being able to hear more than one person speaking at the same time.

The symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Disorder also tend to appear in other areas of life, as the child struggles to deal with not being able to understand people speaking to them or around them. Children with CAPD may have difficulty following directions or following conversation, may develop reading and language problems, may appear forgetful and disorganized, and may be easily distracted by sudden noises. These symptoms are often confused with symptoms of other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or depression, especially because when given standard hearing tests, the children often appear to be normal. In reality, CAPD can be present alone or combined with these other disorders, presenting a difficult diagnostic challenge.

Early detection of CAPD is critical, because to ensure the child’s proper social and educational development, the sooner the problems are diagnosed, the sooner they can be treated. A standard hearing test doesn’t rule out CAPD. If you detect any of these signs in your children, schedule a professional hearing test that can replicate the conditions where the child struggles.

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