What is an auditory processing disorder?
An auditory processing disorder is when an individual has difficulty understanding or remembering information heard in the absence of any type of hearing loss. An auditory processing disorder is NOT a hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of auditory processing disorder?
There are several kinds of auditory processing issues. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Children with APD can have weaknesses in one, some or all of these areas:
- Auditory discrimination: The ability to notice, compare and distinguish between distinct and separate sounds. The words seventy and seventeen may sound alike, for instance.
- Auditory figure-ground discrimination: The ability to focus on the important sounds in a noisy setting. It would be like sitting at a party and not being able to hear the person next to you because there’s so much background chatter.
- Auditory memory: The ability to recall what you’ve heard, either immediately or when you need it later.
- Auditory sequencing: The ability to understand and recall the order of sounds and words. A child might say or write “ephelant” instead of “elephant,” or hear the number 357 but write 735.
Children with APD usually have at least some of the following symptoms:
- Find it hard to follow spoken directions, especially multi-step instructions
- Ask speakers to repeat what they’ve said, or saying, “huh?” or “what?”
- Be easily distracted, especially by background noise or loud and sudden noises
- Have trouble with reading and spelling, which require the ability to process and interpret sounds
- Struggle with oral (word) math problems
- Find it hard to follow conversations
- Have poor musical ability
- Find it hard to learn songs or nursery rhymes
- Have trouble remembering details of what was read or heard
What skills are affected by auditory processing disorder?
Experts agree that children can learn to work around challenges they face when dealing with APD. But APD can present lifelong difficulties if it isn’t diagnosed and managed. Here are some skills that are commonly affected:
- Communication: Children with APD may not speak clearly. They may drop the ends of words and syllables that aren’t emphasized. They might confuse similar sounds (free instead of three) long after their peers have learned to correct themselves.
- Academics: Kids with APD often have trouble developing reading, spelling and writing skills. Learning vowels and developing phonemic awareness—the building blocks for reading—can be especially difficult. Understanding spoken instructions is challenging. Kids with APD tend to perform better in classes that don’t rely heavily on listening.
- Social skills: Kids with APD have trouble telling stories or jokes. They may avoid conversations with peers because it’s hard for them to process what’s being said and think of an appropriate response.