Problems in recognizing sounds of speech in children are not a hearing problem and are misdiagnosed at times. Auditory processing disorder (APD), also referred to as central auditory processing disorder, is a condition where people have normal hearing but instead have trouble processing and interpreting the sounds. This disorder is often diagnosed in school-aged children though it can affect adults too.
What Are the Main Symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of APD vary from individual to individual. A child suffering from this disorder will typically have normal hearing and intelligence but may find it difficult to:
- Follow normal conversations, especially when there is a lot of background noise
- Follow spoken multistep directions
- Remember details of things read or spoken
- Know where sounds or speech is coming from
- Staying focused as they can be easily distracted by sudden loud noises
These symptoms of APD can hamper the academic development of children.
The exact cause of APD is unknown, but in children, it may be linked to genetics, problems during or shortly after birth, recurring ear infections, lead poisoning, head trauma, or seizure disorder. The problem may also be associated with conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, autism, autism spectrum disorder, or dyslexia.
If you think your child has any trouble hearing or understanding speech, it is best to get them examined. Early diagnosis can help children get the right support, improving their ability to listen in classrooms and noisy environments. However, the diagnosis is sometimes difficult as this disorder happens alongside other conditions such as learning difficulty or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The diagnosis of APD is conducted after ruling out hearing loss by an audiologist trained explicitly in treating APD. A comprehensive review of the child’s medical, educational and developmental history will determine if they are eligible for testing.
A child should also be at least seven years old. Before that age, the auditory skills are still in a developing stage. They should have normal hearing, language skills, and intelligence.
The audiologists will conduct several listening tests that will assess different areas of the auditory system and will require a significant amount of attention and effort from the child. The results will be compiled to determine if the child has auditory processing disorder.
There is no cure for treating this disorder, but different strategies can help with listening. Many children diagnosed with APD can also develop better-listening skills as their auditory system matures. Treatment for this condition usually includes changing the learning or communication environment, skills training, and intervention in some cases.
The treatment for APD varies from child to child based on evaluations made during the diagnosis. A speech and language pathologist will also be able to help your child. Various learning centers also offer auditory processing disorder support programs to address specific issues or improve children’s listening and concentration.
Children with APD can face challenges in everyday life, but by offering the right help and support and incorporating coping strategies, they can have a successful academic and work life.