Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. The person with CAPD hears sounds correctly but something adversely affects the way their brain recognizes and interprets the sounds, especially the sounds associated with speech. The disorder is thus characterized by a lack of coordination between the ears and the brain.
As many as 2 to 5 percent of school-age children are affected by CAPD including roughly half of all children that have been diagnosed with 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. The problem is worsened with background noise and in some cases of Central Auditory Processing Disorder the child can hear well in quite environments and only has difficulty in noisy 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. 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. The situation is complicated by the fact that CAPD is often present along with these other disorders.
Properly detecting and diagnosing CAPD as eary in a child’s life as possible is crucial to avoid developmental delays both social and academic. So if you have noticed in your children any of the possible signs of CAPD listed above, it is important to have their hearing tested by experienced professionals.