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Auditory processing disorder (APD)

About the symptoms, causes & treatments of APD in adults & children

In this article, learn all there is to know about auditory perception disorder, including its symptoms, consequences in childhood and adulthood and treatment options. If you have any concerns about your hearing health, book an appointment with a hearing care professional at Amplifon. But first, take our quick & easy hearing test online to get an initital indication of your hearing health.

Auditory perception disorder (APD) explained

Auditory Perceptual Disorder (APD) is a hearing condition where a patient may experience difficulty understanding and processing sounds, including spoken words. This conditon that does not involve damage to the ear and occurs in children and adults.

More medical details

In an auditory perception disorder, also known as central auditory perception disorder, what is heard is not transmitted correctly between the inner ear and the brain as the brain cannot hear certain sounds the way it’s supposed to. Doctors are still unsure where the disorder comes from. However, it is believed that an auditory perception disorder can affect both children and adults. Some adults may have it from childhood, while others may develop APD due to a variety of reasons, including age, trauma, neurologic disease,among others. 

If you think your child is suffering from an auditory and/or visual perception disorders, it is best to consult a paediatrician as early as possible. Should there be any further concerns, the physician will direct you to a phoniatrist or a paediatric audiologist.

if you are an adult and are experiencing problems with your hearing, please consult a hearing care professional immediately. If necessary, they will direct you to an ENT doctor for further examinations.

Symptoms: audio processing issues

Since APD occurs most commonly during childhood, observe children closely when they show possible symptomps of auditory perception disorders. Incidentally, boys are affected by APD twice as often as girls.

Symptoms in children

The most common APD symptoms in children are:

  • Confusing similar-sounding words or sounds.
  • Sensitivity to environmental noise.
  • Problems recognising from which direction sounds are coming from.
  • Difficulty concentrating in noisy environments.
  • Difficulty remembering what they hear (especially noticeable with rhymes).

Adult symptoms

Auditory perception disorder symptoms in adults are similar to those of children. However, adults are more likely to develop their own techniques to improve their own speech comprehension, making the condition more difficult to diagnose.

In adults, APD is often caused by a deterioration of the nerves to process what is heard and its symptoms are often similar to a deteriorating hearing condition. In most cases, it is best to consult an ENT doctor to help pinpoint the underlying cause.

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What is causing APD?

The cause of APD is often unknown, however there are various approaches that can be useful at diagnosing APD. The cause of an auditory perception disorder always lies in the area of the brain that processes sounds. Theories include a temporal processing deficit or other processing disorders that have to do with the differentiation of certain sounds. Additionally, dichotic listening, a method involving presenting different auditory stimuli to each ear simultaneously, is often employed in the assessment of APD

Possible consequences

Particularly in children, APD can negatively impact their school and everyday life. When suffering from this condition, speech disorders in childhood are particularly common. However, the symptoms are often mixed and/or confused with attention deficit disorder (ADD and ADHD). For a more accurate diagnoses, it best to get the opinion of several doctors. 

Even if the first ENT doctor finds that hearing is intact and does not suggest any further solutions, it is best to consult a paediatric audiologist. APD is not a disability, but it is s recognized as a “specific learning disability” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If your child is suffering from an Auditory Perception Disorder, you may request services and accommodations at school to help in the classroom.

In order to minimise problems in learning and in everyday interaction, all therapy offers and aids should be used. If the paediatric audiologist suggests the use of a hearing aid with an FM system, most health insurances will cover the cost of the treatment once the APD disability level has been determine. However, this is not the initial and most common treatment.

Possible effects on children's school performance

Auditory perception disorder has the greatest impact on school performance. APD in primary school is particularly stressful for the child as classrooms can be quite noisy in the early years of school.

Nevertheless, there are several ways to improve the situation for your child at school:

  • Explain Auditory Perception Disorder in children to the teachers.
  • Make it clear that APD in children cannot be cured and that the therapy for Auditory Perception Disorder in Children entails replacement strategies.
  • Ask to have your child seated where their "better" ear always faces the teacher.
  • Encourage your child to speak out when listening conditions in class are poor.
  • Ask the teacher to make important announcements (assignments, appointments) facing your child. With a little help, your child can follow the lesson well.
  • Ask the teacher whether the school can make APD disadvantage compensation possible.

Treatment of the auditory processing disorder

Below you will learn about themost common treatment methods for APD. Should you have any further questions, please consult a hearing care professional at the nearest Amplifon centre.

Is APD curable?

APD is not curable. For this reason, substitute strategies are sought out. The APD exercises are therefore primarily aimed at giving the children equal developmental opportunities and reducing problems at school.

APD therapy helps the child develop their own way of dealing with their disorder. Even if an auditory perception disorder cannot be cured, children can learn how to best cope with it. 

Diagnosis of APD

Every APD diagnoses begins with a hearing check up. If it is determined that the inner ear is intact, further examinations will follow. When diagnosing APD in adults, the process continues with an APD questionnaire that covers various listening situations. For children, this is done by paediatric audiologists who work closely with speech therapists. This is because children are usually not yet able to assess their own deficits.

If you wish to do an initial check of your own hearing performance, take an online hearing test to get a first impression of your difficulties in understanding speech with background noise. This test shoud be followed by APD test to identify the best course of treatment.

Speech therapy

Several therapy programmes have been developed, especially for children. These therapies most often involve auditory perception disorder exercises carried out on a computer that help train certain sound perceptions. In these exercises, special attention is also paid to phoneme discrimination, i.e. the ability to distinguish between similar sounds. To promote speech and language growth at home, APD therapy material can be provided.

Therapy with hearing aids

APD hearing aids can suppress background noise can be helpful for children and adults with auditory perception disorders. These hearing aids are connected to an APD FM system, or frequency modulation system, which can pick up sounds via a microphone, filter background noises and transmit speech clearly. 

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