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Central Auditory Processing Disorders




Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is a complex problem affecting school-aged children. These children can't process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and brain don't fully coordinate. Something affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech. Children with CAPD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. These kinds of problems usually occur in background noise, which is a natural listening environment. So children with CAPD have the basic difficulty of understanding any speech signal presented under less than optimal conditions. Children with CAPD are thought to hear normally because they can usually detect pure tones that are delivered one by one in a very quiet environment (such as a sound-treated room). Those who can normally detect sounds and recognize speech in ideal listening conditions are not considered to have hearing difficulties.


However, the ability to detect the presence of sounds is only one part of the processing that occurs in the auditory system. So, most children with CAPD do not have a loss of hearing sensitivity, but have a hearing problem in the sense that they do not process auditory information normally.


If the auditory deficits aren't identified and managed early, many of these children will have speech and language delays and academic problems.


Symptoms of CAPD can range from mild to severe and can take many different forms. If you think your child might have a problem processing sounds, consider these questions:


  • Difficulty hearing in noisy situations (e.g. the classroom)

  • Difficulty following long conversations

  • Difficulty hearing conversations on the telephone

  • Difficulty learning a foreign language or challenging vocabulary words

  • Difficulty remembering spoken information (i.e., auditory memory deficits)

  • Difficulty taking notes

  • Difficulty maintaining focus on an activity if other sounds are present and the child is easily distracted by other sounds in the environment

  • Difficulty with organizational skills

  • Difficulty following multi-step directions

  • Difficulty in directing, sustaining, or dividing attention

  • Difficulty with reading and/or spelling

  • Difficulty processing nonverbal information (e.g., lack of music appreciation)


If you have answered YES to any of these questions phone us for a CAPD assessment.


CAPD is an often misunderstood problem because many of the behaviours noted above also can appear in other conditions like learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and even depression. Although CAPD is often confused with ADHD, it is possible to have both. It is also possible to have CAPD and specific language impairment or learning disabilities.

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