Understanding Central Auditory Processing Disorder

In an age when it seems people of every age are constantly walking around with headphones or Bluetooth headsets in their phones, it is not hard to see that hearing properly has become an important part of our culture. For those of us with normal hearing, we make the effort to not expose ourselves to loud sounds and to not go long periods of time with loud headphones in to keep our hearing healthy – but what about those born with difficulty hearing?

We’re all familiar with deafness, the condition that renders individuals fully incapable of hearing. However, a lesser-known condition is one that allows people to hear, but makes it difficult or impossible for them to interpret the sounds that they hear– speech, in particular. This condition is known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CADP. Because it is less common and also because it does not render individuals fully incapable of hearing, it can be a confusing and easy to overlook condition, and so it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms and treatment should it apply to you or someone you know.

In recent years, awareness of Central Auditory Processing Disorder has increased, and childhood diagnosis has become increasingly available and common. Because CAPD makes it extremely difficult for individuals to differentiate between several sounds, it may manifest in ways that make it difficult for children to participate in school.

For example, they may have a difficult time understanding their teacher speaking when their classmates are also conversing and may ask for instructions to be clarified multiple times, leading to frustration or even feelings of inadequacy. For these reasons, signs of the condition may at first appear to be a type of learning deficiency, as children may struggle with tasks such as spelling, reading, and understanding any information presented verbally by their teachers, parents, or peers.

Diagnosis involves a test administered by an audiologist. Though you may recall the “beep” test from childhood, wherein children are required to acknowledge a series of increasingly quiet beeps, this test cannot highlight CAPD, as the condition affects the individual’s ability to differentiate between multiple sounds, not their ability to hear a single sound. Instead, audiologists administer a series of tests that involve overlapping sounds, those which it is most difficult to distinguish.

Diagnosis of Central Auditory Processing Disorder alone may alleviate a great deal of stress in the individual’s life, namely if they are a child and may allow parents to be more patient and understanding with any learning difficulties they may suffer. There are a number of different types of treatments and therapies available for CAPD, some with the use of a computer and some through specific types of therapy. Depending on the severity of the condition and the age at which it is diagnosed, individuals in treatment can recover with moderate to high levels of ability to differentiate and process audio cues.

As with most conditions, the earlier Central Auditory Processing Disorder is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, and so it is important to be familiar with the signs and treatments of the condition in order to be able to recognize it.