Central auditory processing disorder occurs in between 3% and 5% of Americans, according to Hear-It.org. While this condition is poorly understood, it impacts millions of people in very real ways. So, what is CAPD? Are there therapy options available? This brief guide offers answers to these questions plus other important details you need to know.
What Is CAPD?
To casual observers, central auditory processing disorder can look like garden-variety hearing loss. The two may present in similar ways. A person may need to have instructions repeated or has difficulty making out speech when there’s a lot of background noise. Someone affected by central auditory processing disorder could also find telephone conversations challenging. But there’s a key difference between most hearing impairments and CAPD. The former usually originates within the ear itself, while the latter involves how the brain processes sound.
Scientists are still trying to determine the factors that lead to its development. Potential causes they’ve identified include genetic predisposition, middle ear infections and head trauma. Children on the autism spectrum or who have ADHD are more likely to present with characteristics of CAPD.
So, CAPD Isn’t Permanent Hearing Loss?
With central auditory processing disorder, there are typically no problems with the inner, middle or outer ear structures. In other words, the ears themselves are working just fine. Sometimes, it’s difficult to determine exactly why a child has this condition. At other times, the cause may be more obvious.
We’ve already mentioned ear infections during childhood as a risk factor. These can temporarily diminish hearing abilities, as Nemours Children’s Health reveals. The younger years are a vital time for learning speech and language, so being unable to fully hear speech can cause later difficulties in processing even after an ear infection has cleared up.
Sometimes, auditory processing disorder can be mistaken for other conditions such as ADHD and autism. However, APD can coexist with such neurological differences. Again, the challenge lies in making sense of what is being heard. For instance, many autistic individuals report that they have trouble screening out background noise to focus on someone else’s speaking voice. This seems to support the “intense world theory” of autism — too much sensory data leading to an overstimulated nervous system. People with ADHD have expressed similar challenges.
Treatment Options for CAPD
While central auditory processing disorder can be challenging to identify, there are therapeutic solutions available. Speech pathologists and audiologists are skilled in testing and diagnosing this condition. Once a diagnosis is complete, these professionals can suggest an effective plan for managing CAPD. Such a plan may include auditory training plus learning to use other skills to make up for existing challenging. Your child’s environment may also need to be modified to reduce distractions that can interfere with listening and comprehension.
Contact our professionals at HEAR Center to learn more and find answers to your questions. Our goal is to help you remain active in the speaking and hearing world.
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