Understanding and Finding Relief from Auditory Processing Disorder


Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a condition that affects up to five percent of school-aged children. Children with this medical condition struggle to hear in the same manner as other children because their brains interpret sounds in a faulty manner. This is especially true of speech sounds. Left undiagnosed and untreated, APD can cause learning problems as well as speech and language delays.

It’s important to note that kids with this disorder often have normal hearing. The problem isn’t that they can’t hear sounds, it’s that they misunderstand what they do hear. It can become especially frustrating for the child when he or she misinterprets similar sounds such as ‘ga’ and ‘da.’

Common Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder in Children

While not all children with this condition display the same symptoms, the following tend to be the most common:

  • Obvious confusion and asking “what?” a lot
  • Poor spelling skills
  • Potential for poor social skills
  • Language develops later than their peers or older children in the family
  • Inattentive behavior leading to distraction
  • Greater difficulty when learning how to read
  • Mishearing of certain words or sounds
  • Struggle to hear correctly in a noisy environment
  • Difficulty when attempting to follow directions with multiple steps
  • Appears to not have as much information to work with as peers due to not interpreting it correctly

Parents who notice any of these symptoms in their child shouldn’t hesitate to visit a doctor for screening. With early diagnosis and intervention, most children with APD can stay on track with their peers.

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APD Consists of Three Distinct Conditions

According to Dr. Jack Katz, a medical pioneer in the identification and treatment of auditory processing disorder, the condition consists of three separate problems. The first of these is auditory memory. Due to this issue, children have difficulty memorizing facts and numbers and struggle with language and reading skills. One way this appears is that the child takes longer to retain his or her address and telephone number than other children. It’s also more challenging for them to retain lists and verbal instructions

The second part of this disorder includes problems with language processing, which presents the most issues for many children. Due to the way the brain processes spoken communication, kids with auditory processing disorder don’t always understand what others are asking them to do. They may also struggle to understand social skills and make friends. Oral tests are difficult, as is following spoken stories involving several different characters. Difficulties with language processing can also present as children shying away from conversations due to fear of how much time it would take to understand the speaker’s words and formulate a response to them.

Problems with the proper discrimination of sounds is a third component of this disorder. Children learn to talk by imitating the sounds they hear from the adults and other children around them. Because of the faulty brain signals, speech may sound very unclear. The child may drop word endings or run words together thinking they make up a single word. This in turn can impact how well kids with this disorder learn to read and spell.

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Causes and Diagnosis of APD

Although some children are born with this disorder, others develop it after experiencing head trauma, chronic ear infections, or lead poisoning. It’s also possible that the condition developed due to multiple or unknown causes. If an audiologist suspects auditory processing disorder, he or she will look for the following issues:

  • Attention: The child can’t sustain attention long enough to complete a task.
  • Cohesion: With this higher-level skill, people form inferences from things they hear or read. This, along with completing verbal math problems or understanding riddles, can be challenging for kids with auditory processing problems.
  • Discrimination: It’s difficult for the child to differentiate between similar sounds or words.
  • Figure-ground: This refers to a child’s inability to pay close attention in a noisy environment.
  • Memory: The disorder makes it difficult for kids to remember such things as study materials, lists, and directions.

Once an audiologist has provided a firm diagnosis, the child’s family, peers, and teachers can all help him or her learn well despite the disorder.

How to Help a Child with APD

Asking the child to look at whom he or she is speaking to and asking the speaker to use a slower rate and slightly higher voice pitch can help tremendously. At home, parents should provide a quiet, distraction-free environment to complete schoolwork. Both parents and teachers should ask the child to repeat directions back to ensure understanding and repeat them in a different way if not understood.

Through technology, Nuheara is working to innovate new solutions for children and adults with auditory processing challenges. In addition to anecdotal evidence from a growing number of Nuheara customers, a recent trial with the University of Melbourne recently provided a preliminary report into its findings on the use of IQbuds BOOST™ and children with Autism.

“It noted that while the subject numbers were small, there was a significant improvement in auditory attention obtained. The ability to concentrate in background noise has been identified as a key factor influencing academic progress for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Ashburner et al. 2008), and as such, was an encouraging result.”

Testimonials from Nuheara customers with APD

Helped my CAPD

The Nuheara IQbuds have made a huge difference to my central processing auditory disorder. I no longer struggle with background noise when I use them.

Daniel B. from Australia

I bought them for my son who has auditory processing issues

He’s only used them for a week… he is mastering them well and they have improved focused listening of his teachers instructions so we’re heading in the right direction.

Monique W. from Australia

Auditory Processing - IQbuds help

We purchased IQbuds for our daughter to take to school. She has a diagnosis of Auditory Processing Disorder which makes school tough. Once getting used to the IQbuds we have noticed her confidence increase and that alone is worth it!

Cam from Australia

Life Changing for my daughter

My daughter has Auditory Processing Disorder and is in year 9 in high school. The noise and distractions have resulted in her struggling to understand what the teacher is saying… IQbuds BOOST have enabled her to reduce her stress levels, better isolate the teacher”s voice whilst blocking out background noise and also noise-cancelling functionality when it all got too much. Thank you so much!

Lyndal from Australia