Central Auditory Processing Disorder Diagnosis And Treatment

central auditory processing disorder diagnosis and treatment

Children who have Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) struggle in school.  They may be labeled as “slow learners,” when in fact they may be quite bright.  Some of them suffer from other, associated problems such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and oppositional-defiant disorder.  All of these problems are types of learning disorders; in the public school system, students with these types of disorders generally are classified as “emotionally handicapped” for the purposes of individual education plans and therapy.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder sometimes is called simply Auditory Processing Disorder (APD).  It’s a complex disorder that is fairly unusual; only about 5 percent of school aged children are diagnosed with it.  It’s easy to confuse with ADD or ADHD, because the symptoms often present very much the same.   However, children who have Central Auditory Processing Disorder aren’t able to process the information that they hear in the same way that other people do because their ears and brain don’t connect in the usual way.  For reasons that remain elusive, their brains recognize and interpret sounds differently from other people; this is particularly true of speech.

Background noise or noisy environments make the inability to interpret sounds correctly even more difficult.  As a result, when these children hear instructions or directions in a noisy environment, they simply aren’t able to figure out what they’re supposed to do.
Diagnosing CAPD
Diagnosing Central Auditory Processing Disorders is difficult.  A normal hearing test generally doesn’t show any kind of problem, because in such a test sounds are presented one at a time in a very quiet room.  Because children with CAPD can hear normally in that kind of environment, the problem is easy to miss.

This points out one of the complexities of Central Auditory Processing Disorders; children who suffer from it don’t have any loss of hearing sensitivity; the problem lies in how their brains interpret the sounds that they hear.  That inability to process sound is a separate issue from actual hearing.  If these issues aren’t recognized early, a child with CAPD may have speech and language problems, as well as academic problems once they get into school.

As with other learning and emotional disorders, the symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Disorder can be severe, or can be mild.  Symptoms also can be quite different from child to child.  However, children who have CAPD generally exhibit some or all of the following characteristics:
Noisy environments upset them
Their behavior is better in quieter settings
They don’t socialize well with other children
Sudden or loud noises distract or bother them
They have difficulty following even simple directions
They have trouble understanding abstract ideas
In math, word problems are difficult for them
They have trouble with reading, spelling or writing
They’re forgetful and disorganized
They have trouble following conversations

One thing that makes Central Auditory Processing Disorders hard to diagnose is that many of those symptoms also occur with ADD, ADHD, and other learning and emotional disorders.   It’s also possible for one child to have multiple, overlapping problems, which makes the entire process of diagnosing and treating CAPD even more difficult. There are therapies for treating CAPD.  In the school setting, children with CAPD may have individual classes that help train them to work around their disorder.  Teachers often use techniques tailored to the individual child to keep them on task; in addition, assignments may be modified or shortened, and timed tests may be eliminated. Children with CAPD also need support in the form of therapy with a child psychologist who specializes in learning disorders.  When all of these therapies are combined in a comprehensive program, children with CAPD can learn to deal with their disorder.