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What Are the Signs of Auditory Processing Disorder in Children?

H. Colledge
H. Colledge

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition in which the brain fails to process sound information correctly, in particular those sounds that make up speech. Often, auditory processing disorder in children causes difficulties in understanding speech, even though intelligence levels may be normal. In a child with APD, the signs of a processing disorder typically include having problems understanding words which sound similar to others and having difficulty hearing in a noisy environment. The child may be unable to follow directions properly and could appear to have learning difficulties in school. Although problems with learning and language can be signs of APD in children, it is important to remember that many other disorders can appear similar.

Recognizing an auditory processing disorder is not always easy. The condition differs from deafness because the ears function well and there is no problem with hearing sounds. Auditory processing disorder in children is associated with an ability to hear simple sounds when they are played individually in a quiet room. It is only when the brain has to interpret the sound information and make sense of it that difficulties are experienced. The signs of auditory processing disorder in children can all be related to problems associated with listening.

Auditory processing disorder may be caused by an issue with the auditory pathways.
Auditory processing disorder may be caused by an issue with the auditory pathways.

A common sign of auditory processing disorder in children is that behavior, and the ability to carry out tasks, are better in quieter environments. Children may be unusually upset by loud sounds and may find noisy places distressing. It could be hard for them to concentrate in such environments. As children have problems following a conversation, they may be unable to take directions and could appear forgetful or disorganized. Reading, writing and spelling could all be affected by the disorder.

Reading, writing, and spelling may be affected by auditory processing disorder.
Reading, writing, and spelling may be affected by auditory processing disorder.

Diagnosing auditory processing disorder in children is difficult, because the symptoms overlap with those of many other conditions. It is not possible to make the diagnosis from the signs alone and an audiologist must carry out special hearing tests to be certain. Once a diagnosis has been made, children often feel relieved that a cause for their problems has been found.

Each child is managed differently, but treating an auditory processing disorder may involve a program of listening exercises, reducing background noise at school and at home, and ensuring that teachers and family check whether the child is looking at them and understanding instructions. Although the cause is unknown, and there is no cure, effective treatment can help children take charge of their condition. Living with an auditory processing disorder does not mean that children will not be successful in later life.

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    • Auditory processing disorder may be caused by an issue with the auditory pathways.
      By: Alila Medical Media
      Auditory processing disorder may be caused by an issue with the auditory pathways.
    • Reading, writing, and spelling may be affected by auditory processing disorder.
      By: Kalim
      Reading, writing, and spelling may be affected by auditory processing disorder.