What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is the term used to describe a weakness in the ability to understand and use auditory information.

Hearing is a complex process. Once a sound signal reaches the brain, it is analysed and processed to recognize and understand it. APD usually causes problems AFTER a person is aware of sound, when they are discriminating, identifying, and understanding it. Therefore, they may have difficulty understanding and responding to sounds in their environment.

For example, someone says, “Look at the cows over there,” and someone with APD may think that they hear “Look at the clown on the chair” or Look over there a crown”.

Is APD only prevalent in children?

When auditory processing disorder is discussed, the talk usually revolves around school-aged children. However, many adults experience problems with Auditory Processing.

With children, we focus largely on the language and learning implications of auditory processing, as APD is associated with educational difficulties. With adults, APD on daily life is can manifest in relationships at home or work. People with APD might report difficulty understanding humour or sarcasm, tone-of-voice, pace, and rhythm.

APD is NOT a hearing difficulty. One can have perfectly normal hearing but have challenges fully understanding information received by the ear, especially in social situations where there is background noise. Hearing problems can co-exist with APD and therefore, an accurate and thorough assessment with a qualified audiologist, helps to define and differentiate the problem.

Signs of APD can include:

  • misunderstanding what’s been said
  • difficulty understanding speech, particularly in noisy environments or when more than one person is speaking
  • problems distinguishing between similar sounds
  • needing a longer response time during conversation
  • difficulty picking up on humour or sarcasm
  • trouble telling where a sound is coming from
  • problems following or comprehending rapid speech or complex directions
  • difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • trouble with learning or enjoying music
  • trouble with learning activities that are delivered verbally.

How do we treat APD?

Treatment for APD is tailored to your individual needs based on evaluations made during the diagnostic process.

Treatment focuses on:

  • Auditory training therapy: helping you to learn how to better process sounds
  • Compensatory strategies: teaching you skills to help compensate for your APD
  • Environmental modifications: helping you to make changes to your learning or working environment to better manage your condition

If you or your child experience possible symptoms of APD, please contact us for more information on getting tested.

– By Zhuqeelah Scott, Audiologist