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Central Auditory Processing Disorder, or CAPD, is a hearing disorder in which the trouble lies not with the ears, but with the brain. With Central Auditory Processing Disorder, your ears have no problem hearing sounds (especially the sounds associated with speech) properly, but something is affecting the brain’s ability to interpret these sounds. The disorder is thus characterized by a lack of coordination between the ears and the brain.

CAPD affects as many as 2% to 5% of school-age children, and as many as half of the children are diagnosed as having a learning disability. One of the characteristics of CAPD is that children who have it have difficulties recognizing subtle differences between the sounds of similar words, even though they have no problem hearing the words. This problem often is exacerbated by the presence of background noise, so that children who can hear and understand words perfectly well in quiet environments have difficulty doing so in noisy environments.

This can make CAPD hard to detect. A child that can hear and intrepret speech well in a quiet environment will generally have no problems passing a hearing test administered in a quiet environment. Consequently, their audiogram test results may appear normal when in real-life situations they are having difficulty locating the source of a sound, discriminating similar sounds or hearing more than one person speaking at the same time.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder often affects children in other aspects of life because they are having trouble understanding the people speaking around them. For example, they may become easily distracted by sudden noises, have difficulty following directions, develop reading, spelling, and language difficulties, become disorganized and forgetful, or have trouble following conversations. 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. This misdiagnosis is further complicated by the fact that a child may in fact have ADHD or some other learning disorder and also have CAPD.

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. So if you have noticed in your children any of the possible signs of CAPD listed above, it is important to have their hearing tested by experienced professionals.

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