Written by Sarah Gewanter, MSSW, Director
Do you know the hidden, often unrecognized symptoms or issues of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also referred to as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)? Looking and acting normal, those who have this condition hear with distortion and/or other delays. Often hearing differently in one ear than the other or from one frequency to another, making it difficult and slow to understand and process speech and language. It can be particularly difficult when people with CAPD are trying to hear someone but unable to focus due to competing background noise getting in the way. They will often either keep asking a person to repeat what they are saying or sometimes just give up. Some people call this “cocktail party syndrome”, also known as “sound field discrimination” difficulties.
For some people it can seem like hearing underwater. For them, some sounds come in loud and clear while other sounds are delayed, muffled or unclear. People don’t necessarily know they are hearing differently than others because they only know that they hear what they hear.
If someone sees differently in one eye than the other, or with distortion in their visual field, obviously there is a problem and it is recognized more quickly and easily. However, audiologists are trained to look only for hearing loss unless they have special training to evaluate and diagnose auditory processing disorder.
There are several key components to APD.
#1 The auditory system and how clearly and accurately it receives and interprets the auditory stimulation of sounds; otherwise called receptive language. If somebody does not hear clearly or accurately it makes it hard to understand what is being said. After a while people begin to guess or lip read to compensate, but are not hearing accurately.
#2 The vibration of sound frequencies stimulates neural pathways in the brain. If these pathways and the neural processes are not accurate this can create another neurological element so that the person may take longer to pick up and interpret what is being said. By the time they have understood and figured out what word was being said the person may be several words along and they’ve missed a significant portion of the conversation.
This is also the case with Auditory Dyslexia in that, as noted by Dr. Paula Tallal’s research at Rutger’s University, there can be a slight delay in the hearing or the brain’s processing such that the person will miss key critical fast sounds. For example, the word “cat” may be heard without the “c” if too fast to catch – then the person has to guess what was said. Was it fat? Mat? That? Pat? etc…
#3 For good expressive language abilities, neural pathways in the brain need to go in the correct direction and the Speech Center needs to be developed in order to express oneself verbally. Sometimes these pathways are not going in the right direction or not developed properly.
Fortunately, the Auditory Integration Training program, developed by Dr. Berard, is actually helpful and successful in most cases of APD and CAPD. AIT, a non-invasive approach, helps by normalizing the hearing and the way the brain processes information.
If you would feel this article would help someone you know, please share it with them and encourage them to contact us. For more information, call our office at 828-683-6900. We look forward to hearing from you.