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Auditory Processing Disorders (APD)

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also commonly referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), is the ability to attend to, discriminate among or between, recognize, or understand auditory information. It is not how “well we hear” but rather “what we do with what we hear”. APD is a sensory processing deficit that commonly impacts listening, spoken language, comprehension, and learning. APD is associated with some sort of dysfunction within the central auditory nervous system.

The below illustration shows the “ins and outs” of the auditory system. As you can see there are many centers and pathways going “up” and coming “down” in the brain when we hear and process information.

There is no one cause of APD. We do know that it often coexists with other disabilities such as language disorders or delays, learning disabilities or dyslexia, autism or autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit disorders with (ADHD) or without (ADD) hyperactivity, pervasive developmental disorder or developmental delay, and social/emotional problems. APD is twice as prevalent in males as in females.

All of these disorders share common characteristics and are often interrelated. The most common question we get is “how do I know if my child has poor attention or poor auditory processing?” So here is the way we explain it to parents:

APD vs. ADHD

Auditory Processing Disorder and ADHD are two distinct clinical conditions with different diagnostic criteria. However, studies suggest that 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD may also have APD. Children with ADHD tend to exhibit inattention, distractibility, and hyperactivity in any environment, whereas children with Auditory Processing Disorder usually don’t have difficulty focusing and paying attention in quiet environments. Children with ADHD also usually exhibit no clear pattern on auditory processing tests and inconsistencies in APD test performance, such as ear advantage (ear strength) changes on different dichotic tests (requiring the ears to compete against each other). Although there is some overlap in symptoms, individuals with Auditory Processing Disorder present primarily with complaints of poor listening skills and frequent requests for clarification, while individuals with ADHD present primarily with complaints of inattentiveness and/or hyperactivity.