Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. People with Central Auditory Processing Disorder have no difficulty hearing sounds – especially speech – but, their brains don’t interpret the sound inputs correctly. That’s why the disorder is sometimes summarized as an ear-brain coordination problem.
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 CAPD often cannot discern the sounds of different words even when the words are spoken loud and clear. This inability to understand words often becomes worse in noisy environments, but is not as present in quiet environments.
Diagnosing CAPD is difficult, because they can often hear and interpret speech well in quiet rooms. When the children’s hearing is tested, however, this is also done in quiet rooms where they have no problem hearing the pure tones generated by the test equipment. As a result, their audiogram results may appear normal, but they may nevertheless have difficulties distinguishing similar words, locating where sounds are coming from, recognizing repetitive patterns in high and low sounds, or hearing more than one person’s voice at a 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. The disorder may manifest itself in a difficulty following instructions, being easily distracted by loud noises, appearing forgetful or disorganized, or slow to develop reading, spelling and language skills. 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.