What exactly is auditory processing disorder and what you can do about it
Although we hear with our ears, it is our brain that makes sense of the information we hear. The mechanism by which the brain analyses and assigns meaning to auditory information is known as auditory processing. A Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD, sometimes called APD) occurs when this process is impaired.
What is the effect of a CAPD?
Efficient processing of auditory information is very important for children and adults to be successful in learning and communication. A CAPD will have an impact on educational achievement, social development, relationships and general emotional well being.
Listed below are some common behavioural characteristics of people with a CAPD. Central auditory processing consists of a number of different underlying mechanisms. The actual symptoms of a person’s CAPD will depend on which mechanisms are affected.
- Difficulties hearing in noise.
- Frequent requests for repetition.
- Inability to follow instructions.
- Poor memory for auditory information.
- Difficulties identifying features of speech sounds so that reading is affected.
- Academic problems, especially reading, spelling and comprehension.
- Behavioural problems.
- Short attention span.
- Social difficulties.
(It is important to note that these symptoms can result from other disorders. Careful assessment is required to identify the underlying cause).
What can be done about auditory processing disorder.
Your audiologist will put together a management program for you. Your particular needs are taken into account. The aim of the rehabilitative/treatment program is to both strengthen a person’s auditory processing skills as well as to teach them strategies to better manage the auditory processing problems they are having. We find we need to focus on four core areas:
- Modifying person with auditory processing disorder personal environment. The goal of this step is to improve the person’s access to auditory information by minimising the amount of energy required for them to obtain this information.
- Learning to be responsible for their own listening comprehension, so that they are able to put in place strategies for determining and retaining the content and meaning of each message.
- Brain training exercises or other exercises which can be done at home. Referral to a speech pathologist may be required for therapeutic intervention especially for children. There are also computer programs available for specific auditory processing deficits.
- Use of technology to improve the ability to hear what is important and reduce the effects of distance, background noise and poor acoustics. This may include hearing devices such as hearing aids, FM systems, and what is called assistive listening devices.
This article was first published at hearingcareprofessionals.com.au.
Nolene Nielson is an experienced Brisbane Audiologist whose independent audiology practice is part of a new direction in hearing health care.