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What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) presents as a difficulty in understanding sounds and spoken words. APD often begins in childhood but it is not a hearing problem. APD is often found in people with attention, language and learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and ADHD.

Symptoms of APD include problems understanding:

  • People speaking in noisy places
  • People with strong accents or fast talkers
  • Similar sounding words
  • Spoken instructions

Testing for APD is available and may include:

  • Listening to speech with background noise
  • Identifying small changes in sounds
  • Filling in missing parts of words
  • Measuring how the brain reacts to sound
  • Speech and language
  • Memory, problem-solving and concentration

What causes APD?

It’s not always clear what causes APD but possibilities include:

  • Ear infections
  • A faulty gene
  • A head injury
  • Complications at birth
  • What treatments are available for APD?

While there is no cure for APD, there are some treatments available which can help. These include:

  • Auditory training, which involves activities to help improve listening and concentration skills – this can be done with a hearing specialist or online
  • To reduce background noise, school children with APD can wear an earpiece that connects to a microphone worn by their teacher

Children with APD will find it difficult to acknowledge and remember what they hear. While there is nothing wrong with their hearing, their brain may be struggling to make sense of what is being said. When this occurs, children can miss information and find it difficult to follow conversations.

If APD is present in children, they may experience problems with:

  • Hearing differences between sounds
  • Filtering out background sounds
  • Remembering things they hear, such as nursery rhymes or songs
  • Understanding and remembering the order of sounds
  • Languages that they hear aloud

How can you help children with APD?

  • Talk to them face to face
  • Use pictures and text to communicate
  • Repeat or rephrase things if necessary
  • Use carpet and soft furnishings to reduce room noise
  • If you have concerns about your child’s developmental milestones before the age of 5 years old, please get in touch with your GP.

According to Deafness Research UK, while there is not yet any firm evidence on how many children have APD, it is possible that as many as 10% of children may have some level of APD.

Learn more about current APD research here.

What is the difference between APD and ADHD? Find out here.

Find out more about our Paediatric Audiology services for children, or call us on 01223 661399 to book an appointment.