Auditory Processing Evaluation And Treatment

Does this sound familiar? Does someone you know fit this description?

  • No detectable hearing loss
  • Normal speech and language abilities, but
  • Difficulty understanding long sentences
  • Difficulty organizing clear thoughts
  • Disobedience/“selective hearing”

It could be auditory processing disorder (APD), also sometimes called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).

What Is Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

With this disorder, there is no hearing loss. A hearing test would indicate perfectly fine hearing. But your brain has difficulty processing — and, thus, recognizing and understanding — what you’ve heard. Especially speech.

Simply put, with CAPD, your ears and brain don’t coordinate like they should. That’s why a path forward is often a mystery to the person with CAPD, their loved ones, and others.

Research indicates that CAPD affects about 3% to 5% of school-aged children and about 23% to 76% of older adults.

What Are Some Common Challenges?

This list is not exhaustive but does describe common areas of difficulty for those with CAPD:

  • Developing basic reading and spelling skills
  • Learning through simply hearing information
  • Following instructions
  • Remembering details from a story
  • Filtering out background noise
  • Mishearing or misunderstanding speech
  • Understanding muffled, fast, or distorted speech
  • Distinguishing between similar speech sounds
  • Organizing verbal information
  • Oral and written expression
  • Hypersensitivity to noise

Is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder Diagnosis Important?

Though CAPD awareness has increased in recent years, there’s still much confusion about it.

Diagnosing CAPD is a complex process, because the disorder can occur alongside other factors or conditions. The cause might be linked to a specific disorder, or it might be unknown. Some people experience CAPD because of changes in the brain (aging, concussion, stroke, or other neurological damage). Others may exhibit no underlying conditions.

Children experiencing CAPD have trouble with memory, attention, language, and reading tasks — symptoms shared with other developmental disorders. This makes it difficult to confirm CAPD rather than other conditions such as:

  • Specific language impairment (SLI)
  • Dyslexia
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Learning disorder (LD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

A child could have CAPD alone or — more likely — in addition to one or more of the other neurological disorders mentioned immediately above.

Because CAPD can lead to long-term issues with listening, communication, academic success, and psychosocial wellness, a diagnosis is crucial so interventions can be implemented.

How Is Central Auditory Processing Disorder Diagnosed?

A trained audiologist is uniquely qualified to diagnose CAPD. They’ll examine your ears and hearing to rule out hearing problems, then perform special tests to assess your brain’s various auditory processing functions.

A variety of professionals may have essential information to offer. To better understand the situation, please provide documentation from any previous evaluations pertaining to the difficulties discussed.

The specific selection of tests will depend on the patient’s age, symptoms, cognitive status, and other factors.

Comprehensive audiological evaluation

This answers the question, “Do your ears function properly?”

As already mentioned, those with CAPD might act like they have a hearing loss. For example, they could find it difficult to follow directions or focus on speech in background noise. Therefore, we need to rule out hearing loss as a factor before moving on to the other evaluations.

If you have recently had a comprehensive audiological evaluation, it’s best to email or fax it to us for review before arriving for your CAPD evaluation.

Behavioral evaluation

This answers the question, “How well do you process what you hear?”

You will hear and repeat words, sentences, or sounds in different listening environments that simulate real-life listening scenarios. The tasks will evaluate different aspects of auditory processing, for example:

  • Focusing on target sounds in background noise
  • Separating out and making sense of two sounds — one in each ear — when heard at the same time
  • Recognizing different tones in sequence and then correctly repeating them

Electrophysiologic evaluation

This answers the question, “What is your brain’s involuntary response to sound?”

While watching a movie on silent and listening to test material, sensors (stickers) attached to your scalp, forehead, and earlobes will record activity from your brain.

This evaluation measures the speed and intensity of neural firing. It determines your ability to track or follow sound but eliminates behavioral factors such as age, language, and ability to pay attention.

How Is CAPD Treated?

Just as every person is different, so are the treatments for CAPD. What may work for one person may not be the most effective approach for another.

Based on our findings, our audiologists will use a multidisciplinary approach to recommend ways to improve CAPD symptoms or reduce their negative impact. Recommendations might include:

  • Strategies for improving the listening environment
  • Auditory training to strengthen speech understanding and other skills
  • Improved amplification and noise reduction with professionally fit hearing aids
  • Amplification with an assistive listening device
  • Other referrals, such as a speech-language pathologist, educational psychologist, occupational therapist, or developmental optometrist

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of auditory processing disorder, don’t wait. Contact us today for an evaluation and customized treatment options for your individual needs.