Auditory processing is the ability of the ears to communicate with the brain. Basically, what the brain does to what your ears hear. Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is an umbrella term for different disorders that affect how the brain processes auditory information. CAPD is often referred to as the hearing problem wherein the brain can’t hear.
CAPD is thought to affect almost 5% of school aged children. People affected by CAPD have normal hearing, meaning that their outer, middle and inner ear are all working well, but they are unable to process what is being heard. For children, CAPD will be more obvious when the child is in a noisy environment or when they are given a number of instructions at once. This can affect how the child performs in class.
What are the signs that a child or person has CAPD?
- Difficulty following, understanding or remembering verbal instruction
- Difficulty listening in a noisy situation
- Easily distracted or inattentiveness
- Difficulty remembering events or taking down notes
- Difficulty understanding people talking quickly
- Difficulty reading, spelling or comprehending
- Difficulty multi-tasking (taking down notes while listening to the teacher)
- Difficulty understanding sarcasm or jokes
What are the causes of CAPD?
The causes of CAPD are still unknown. But what we do know is that CAPD involves changes in the way the brain processes sound, but we don't know why this happens. It is also not clear if the child is born with CAPD or if it develops after birth. It is also known that children affected with ear infections in multiple occasions are the most susceptible to developing CAPD.
What is CAPD Assessment?
CAPD will not show up in a standard hearing test. A specific test for CAPD is done to assess the auditory processing skills in addition to hearing ability. Before doing the assessment, an extensive case history is taken and a hearing test to rule out hearing loss is done. In an auditory processing assessment, an Audiologist will perform a series of tests to determine if the person is able to listen to speech in background noise, repeat a series of words or numbers, listen to words coming to both ears at the same time, ignore words from one side and focus on the other side. Each test assesses one or more auditory function and is age appropriate. Given that the tests are quite complex, the assessments are usually done in 2-3 hours. And due to the complexity of the tests, only children who are 7 years old and above can be tested.
Diagnosing CAPD can be difficult because some signs of CAPD can also be due to problems with attention, speech, language and learning in general. Many disorders present behavioral characteristics similar to CAPD that can cause the listener to perform poorly on behavioral central auditory function tests and/or exhibit similar functional listening difficulties (Ferre, 2014). With a multi-disciplinary approach, working with audiologists, speech pathologists, psychologists, doctors and even teachers can ensure that the patient receives the right diagnosis and care.