Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Symptoms, Causes, Testing and Treatment Options

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Symptoms, Causes, Testing and Treatment Options

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

APD, or Central Auditory Processing Disorder, is unlike hearing loss or a learning disorder where your brain cannot comprehend what is being said. APD is a condition where your brain does not “hear” the sound accurately because your ear does not coordinate with your brain. As a result, you have difficulty following conversations in a loud environment or understanding rapid speech. 


APD symptoms appear in different ways and range from simple to complex. Some significant signs to look for are:

  • Mishearing speech or sounds
  • Feeling overwhelmed in loud environments
  • Experiencing difficulty following rapid conversations
  • Being able to hear better in quiet environments
  • Having trouble with spelling and phonics
  • Finding it hard to solve verbal math problems

An estimated 2% to 7% of children have APD. It is reported more frequently in boys than in girls. And while it often manifests in childhood, it can develop at any age.

APD is linked to other disorders with comparable symptoms, such as dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Auditory memory deficiencies, auditory attention issues and sound sensitivity may cause trouble, but these are not signs of Auditory Processing Disorder. 

This overlap of symptoms can sometimes make the diagnostic process more complicated, and a thorough assessment is essential for proper diagnosis and appropriate response.


Causes of APD are usually unknown, though expert studies have found that individuals with trauma, lead poisoning, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, recurring ear infection or seizure issues are most likely to develop APD. It can also be hereditary.

Risk Factors

The factors that increase your chances of developing auditory processing disorder (APD) are as follows:

  • Ageing.
  • Stroke.
  • Injury to the head.
  • Lead poisoning.
  • Seizure disorders.
  • Birth-related issues, such as premature birth, low birth weight, or a pregnant woman abusing alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
  • Recurrent ear infections, especially in children.


Only an audiologist can diagnose APD. He may carry out some tests to make sure the listening disorder is not caused by hearing loss.

The Audiologist will conduct several advanced listening tests during which the patient listens to various sounds and answer. The audiologist may also attach painless electrodes to the patient’s ear and head to monitor the brain’s response to the sound.

Children under the age of 7 are usually not tested for APD because their responses may affect the accuracy of the test.


There is no cure for APD, and treatment is unique for each individual.

However, the following factors are usually involved:

Auditory Training:

Also known as ‘aural rehabilitation,’ auditory training is a carefully planned and thorough presentation of sounds. The goal is to help the listener process and distinguish different sounds.

Speech Therapy:

Individuals with APD experience difficulty distinguishing sounds. They might mishear or mispronounce ‘that’ for ‘cat’ or ‘dead’ for ‘bed’. The goal is to enhance reading and listening comprehension with speech therapy and increase the capacity to interpret these sounds.

Sound Therapy:

Sound therapy prompts the neuron pathways to enable quick transmission of sounds from ear to brain. It improves the brain’s efficiency in processing language and enhancing reading and vocal skills.

Assistive Listening Devices: 

ALDs or Assistive Listening Devices are portable machines that separate speech from background noise, helping the individual to hear properly.

Lifestyle Changes: 

People around you can help you with APD by adopting a few changes, such as:

  • Turning off TV or other background sounds while talking
  • Talking face to face
  • Making you repeat what they’ve said
  • Using pictures and texts
  • Repeating things when necessary
  • Using carpets and soft furnishing to reduce background noise

Since APD is a neurological disorder, it cannot be treated with medication. Talking to an expert audiologist can help you determine the right treatment plan.


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