What’s auditory processing disorder?


Auditory processing disorder (APD) is when the brain has a problem comprehending the signal that is sent to it. It’s “what we do with what we hear”. There are two parts to hearing. The first is detection, the ability to simply hear a sound and let someone know that you heard it. The other part is processing, the brain’s ability to make sense of the sounds and words that come to the auditory part of the brain.

Auditory processing disorder is hard to diagnose because most of the time audiological test results are normal. Sometimes speech understanding tests can indicate poorer word discrimination scores than would be expected with normal hearing.

Signs your child may have an auditory processing disorder are:
Difficulties hearing in background noise
Difficulty following directions
Difficulty localizing where sounds are coming from
Short attention span
Asking for repetitions of speech even when it’s quiet

Auditory processing disorder is usually evaluated using a special group of listening tests involving words and sounds. It’s important to have a regular audiological evaluation first to rule out hearing loss. The audiologist that evaluates your child for APD will choose specific tests based on your child’s history and areas of concern. The testing can sometimes take 1-2 hours and may need to be split up into a couple of visits. He or she will then review the results of the testing with you after they are completed and evaluated and offer suggestions for helping your child. Suggestions can range from special seating in the classroom to an “FM” system or to a computerized therapy program to help your child strengthen his areas of difficulty.