Central Auditory Processing Disorder: The facts

Published on by Randy Nicholas

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is a term that describes a variety of disorders that affect the way that the brain processes auditory information. It is a relatively common problem that, if left untreated, can lead to severe learning impediments and difficulty in achieving academic objectives. This article will explore what causes CAPD, how it is diagnosed, and the methods used to treat it.


What causes CAPD?

Evidence exists to suggest that CAPD can be either genetic or acquired. Genetic issues may result from defects in brain development that create difficulty in processing auditory information. Some evidence also suggests that CAPD can result from inner ear infections, head injuries, or developmental problems in the central nervous system. More research is needed however, to determine the exact causes of this disorder in both children and adults.


Those with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often have difficulty distinguishing from various noises in a room, but may exhibit no challenge in understanding sounds in quiet environments. CAPD shares many symptoms with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) such as inability to focus, tendency toward distraction, and cognitive impairments such as memory loss.


Audiologists, or hearing specialists, are the only professionals qualified to diagnose CAPD and other auditory disorders in children. The diagnosis of CAPD involves a battery of tests that determine how a child processes auditory information. In many cases, CAPD diagnoses cannot be confirmed until the child reaches the age of seven or eight, because of the skills required by the tests. As with most disorders, early intervention with CAPD is very important, so many parents do not wait for the official diagnosis to take steps.


Speech therapy

Since CAPD is not a physiological problem, there are no surgeries or drug therapies that have been proven to have any affect. Children and adults diagnosed with CAPD usually work long-term with a speech therapist to address the specific problems and challenges faced by each individual.

Problem areas

Speech therapists determine which areas are the most problematic for each individual client. The main problem areas in CAPD are

  • Auditory figure-ground problems, which are difficulties in distinguishing between background noises,
  • Auditory memory problems, which are difficulties in remembering instructions and other information,
  • Auditory discrimination problems, which are difficulties with distinguishing between similar-sounding words,
  • Attention problems,
  • Auditory cohesion problems, which are characterised by an inability to draw inferences from conversations and understand verbal maths problems.
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Published on Psychology

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