Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. People with Central Auditory Processing Disorder have no difficulty hearing sounds – especially speech – but, their brains don’t interpret the sound inputs correctly. That’s why the disorder is sometimes summarized as an ear-brain coordination problem.

As many as 2 to 5 percent of school-age children are affected by CAPD including roughly half of all children that have been diagnosed with a learning disability. Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often fail to recognize subtle differences between the sounds of different words, even though the words are clear and loud enough for them to hear. The problem is worsened with background noise and in some cases of Central Auditory Processing Disorder the child can hear well in quite environments and only has difficulty in noisy environments.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder is often difficult to detect, because when children’s hearing is tested in a quiet room, they can clearly hear the pure tones they hear through the testing equipment, and they similarly have no apparent problems hearing and interpreting speech in non-noisy environments. As a result, their audiogram results may appear normal, but they may nevertheless have difficulties distinguishing similar words, locating where sounds are coming from, recognizing repetitive patterns in high and low sounds, or hearing more than one person’s voice at a time.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder often affects children in other aspects of life because they are having trouble understanding the people speaking around them. The disorder may manifest itself in a difficulty following instructions, being easily distracted by loud noises, appearing forgetful or disorganized, or slow to develop reading, spelling and language skills. These symptoms are often confused with symptoms of other conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or depression, especially because when given standard hearing tests, the children often appear to be normal. In reality, CAPD can be present alone or combined with these other disorders, presenting a difficult diagnostic challenge.

It is important for these children’s development that problems with CAPD be identified early so that treatment and correction of the difficulties can begin as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is key to ensuring that the condition is resolved, which is why it is important, if you have noticed any of the above symptoms in your children, to have their hearing professionally tested.