Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. 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 affects as many as 2% to 5% of school-age children, and as many as half of the children are 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. The problem is worsened with background noise and in some cases of Central Auditory Processing Disorder the child can hear well in quite environments and only has difficulty in noisy 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. As a result, their audiogram results may appear normal, but they may nevertheless have difficulties distinguishing similar words, locating where sounds are coming from, recognizing repetitive patterns in high and low sounds, or hearing more than one person’s voice at a time.
These symptoms may carry over into other areas of life, as the children struggle to cope with not being able to understand people speaking to them. The disorder may manifest itself in a difficulty following instructions, being easily distracted by loud noises, appearing forgetful or disorganized, or slow to develop reading, spelling and language skills. Since standard hearing test for these children often yield normal results, these indicators are often mistaken for other disorders such as ADHD or depression. 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. So if you have noticed in your children any of the possible signs of CAPD listed above, it is important to have their hearing tested by experienced professionals.