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Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD (also known as Auditory Processing Disorder, or APD), is a complicated hearing disorder based not on the ears’ inability to hear sounds, but on the brain’s inability to process and interpret them correctly. People with Central Auditory Processing Disorder have no difficulty hearing sounds – especially speech – but, their brains don’t interpret the sound inputs correctly. The disorder is thus characterized by a lack of coordination between the ears and the brain.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder affects as many as 2% to 5% of school-age children, and as many as half of the children are diagnosed as having a learning disability. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often fail to recognize subtle differences between the sounds of different words, even though the words are clear and loud enough for them to hear. This inability to understand words often becomes worse in noisy environments, but is not as present in quiet environments.

CAPD is often difficult to detect, because when children’s hearing is tested in a quiet room, they can clearly hear the pure tones they hear through the testing equipment, and they similarly have no apparent problems hearing and interpreting speech in non-noisy environments. Consequently, their audiogram test results may appear normal when in real-life situations they are having difficulty locating the source of a sound, discriminating similar sounds or hearing more than one person speaking at the same time.

These symptoms may carry over into other areas of life, as the children struggle to cope with not being able to understand people speaking to them. For example, they may become easily distracted by sudden noises, have difficulty following directions, develop reading, spelling, and language difficulties, become disorganized and forgetful, or have trouble following conversations. These symptoms are often confused with symptoms of other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or depression, especially because when given standard hearing tests, the children often appear to be normal. This misdiagnosis is further complicated by the fact that a child may in fact have ADHD or some other learning disorder and also have CAPD.

Properly detecting and diagnosing CAPD as eary in a child’s life as possible is crucial to avoid developmental delays both social and academic. Early diagnosis is key to ensuring that the condition is resolved, which is why it is important, if you have noticed any of the above symptoms in your children, to have their hearing professionally tested.