Does your child have an auditory processing disorder?
Is your child having trouble with schoolwork? Does he/she find it hard to concentrate and follow a conversation? Does he/she ask you to repeat what you’ve said in noisy environments? Does he/she seem distracted? Your child may have an auditory processing disorder.
Hearing and understanding: two different functions
An auditory processing disorder (APD) occurs when the central nervous system has trouble processing auditory information. The auditory system is comprised of two parts: the peripheral auditory system and the central auditory system. When there is a problem in the peripheral auditory system (outer, middle and inner ear), the child will have trouble hearing. If the problem is in the central auditory system (central auditory pathway to the brain), the child will have trouble understanding, or analyzing and processing the sound information that is heard. APD is defined as persistent difficulty processing an auditory signal that affects perception in noise, lateralization, localization, auditory discrimination, the identification of auditory patterns or sequential organization even when auditory acuity is normal.
It is estimated that 2 to 7% of schoolage children and some adults have an APD. APD may be caused by delayed maturation of the auditory system, heredity or a head trauma.
What are the characteristics of an auditory processing disorder?
The symptoms vary depending on the person and the degree of the disorder. Some children with an APD cannot understand messages in noisy environments. They tend to ask people to repeat themselves, get tired easily or complain that noises bother them. They may also find it difficult to follow oral instructions, especially if they are long and complicated, or to understand fast speech. Some people confuse words that sound alike, like “bed” and “dead.” Others have trouble planning the steps for a project, organizing their time or following routines. They may seem distracted or act like they’re daydreaming. Students with an APD are at risk of experiencing learning difficulties and limitations in their daily lives.
A child with serious learning problems should have a thorough psychological, orthophonic and audiological assessment as soon as possible.
An audiologist can assess for an auditory processing disorder starting at seven years of age. It usually requires two or three appointments and it is absolutely necessary to do a hearing test (audiogram) beforehand to make sure the child can hear well.
Auditory processing disorder solutions
After the assessment is done, several measures can be taken to minimize the troubles people with APDs face. Some of these include doing audiology therapy, learning listening strategies, modifying the environment, organizing strategic seating in the classroom and using a frequency modulation (FM) system.
Do not hesitate to make an appointment with an audiologist if you have any questions about auditory processing disorders.
By Claudia Giguère, audiologist, Polyclinique de l’Oreille