Auditory Processing Disorder

Children with Central Auditory Processing Disorder often have normal hearing but difficulties processing oral information. CAPD affects about 5% of school-age children.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), also known as Auditory Processing Disorder, is a disorder of interpretation. Most people with CAPD do not exhibit any hearing loss; rather, they have problems when interpreting the information that is heard. For example, a child may have difficulty distinguishing between words that sound similar. In addition, most children with CAPD are of normal intelligence levels.

Symptoms of CAPD

The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders lists several traits of children with CAPD:

  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering information presented orally
  • Difficulty following directions when multiple steps involved
  • Poor listening skills
  • Takes extra time to process information
  • Can have academic or behavioral problems
  • May have problems with reading, spelling and vocabulary
  • May have language problems, such as late in developing vocabulary, confusing syllables in words

In addition to these characteristics, children with CAPD may have a more difficult time distinguishing sounds in noisy environments.

Causes of CAPD

It is thought that CAPD is hereditary, as are many learning disabilities. It may also be associated with recurrent ear infections. Common co-existing conditions include dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, autism, developmental delays and other learning disabilities.

Diagnosis of CAPD

Central Auditory Processing Disorder is diagnosed by an audiologist. A number of tests will be given to find out how well a person recognizes sounds, hears in noisy environments, and distinguishes sounds when two sentences are spoken at one time.

Based on these tests, the audiologist will be able to determine if a child is having difficulty with hearing or if CAPD may be present.

Treatment of CAPD

Much is still unknown about CAPD. Research into treatment methods is ongoing and hopefully, this research will provide answers on how to best help children (and adults) with CAPD. However, there are some methods and strategies currently being used to help children with CAPD succeed.

Classroom seating – Having the child sit close to the front of the room or improving the acoustics in the classroom can sometimes help a child.

Auditory trainers – These headsets, worn by the student, work with a microphone, worn by the teacher, and help to filter out background noises to allow the child to focus on the teacher’s lesson.

Vocabulary Skill-Building – Exercises and extra lessons to help develop and increase a child’s vocabulary and work skills can help the child to understand the spoken language better.

In addition to these strategies, some audiologists are using auditory integration training. This retrains the auditory systems in an attempt to decrease misinterpretations while listening. This training is still being researched and there is no evidence yet to prove it is effective.


“Auditory Processing Disorder in Children.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Feb. 2004.

Patton, Judith W. “Living and Working with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder.” LDOnline. 1997.

“Auditory Processing Disorder.” 2007. Reviewed by Thierry Morlet, PhD