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Testing auditory processing disorders (APDs)

Testing auditory processing disorders (APDs) / central auditory processing disorders (CAPDs)

What are auditory processing disorders?

People with an auditory processing disorder hear sounds well (they are not deaf), but cannot analyze the sounds properly. This is caused by a malfunction in the areas of the auditory system that process and analyze auditory information, which leads to problems processing, decoding, organizing, analyzing and memorizing heard information. Consequently, an auditory processing disorder can limit a person’s understanding of speech in noisy situations, make it difficult to locate sounds and more.

What causes auditory processing disorders?

Auditory processing disorders may occur due to slow maturation of the auditory system, heredity or a head injury.

What are the symptoms of auditory processing disorders?

  • Difficulty understanding:
    • Fast speech
    • Speech in noisy environments
  • Easily distracted by background noise
  • Tires quickly when listening
  • Problems with auditory memory (names, dates, times, sequences, etc.)
  • Difficulty following long, complex directions
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Confusion over sounds and words that sound similar
  • Often asks people to repeat or is passive during conversation
  • Inconsistent responses: appropriate or inappropriate, depending on the case
  • Does better working alone
  • Learning difficulties:
    • English/French: reading, writing
    • Mathematics: multiplication tables, problem solving
  • Academic results that don’t match the child’s abilities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety (tests, dictations)
  • Feels discouraged because things are tedious and take a long time
  • May have difficulty making friends
  • May isolate him- or herself, or on the contrary, takes up a lot of space

If you or your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms, it is important to consult an audiologist as soon as possible to schedule a hearing test.

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Consequences of auditory processing disorders

Auditory processing disorders (APDs), formerly called central auditory processing disorders, affect two to seven percent of children, and two to three times more boys than girls. They can have serious repercussions on learning and communication.

Testing for auditory processing disorders

An audiologist can test for auditory processing disorders starting at age seven. It typically takes two or three visits of an hour and half each, depending on the person’s level of cooperation and concentration. It is essential to do a hearing test first (audiogram with an audiologist), to be sure the patient is hearing well.

Testing of auditory processing abilities can then begin. The patient is mainly asked to repeat words, numbers and sentences. There aren’t any tests that require reading or writing. The tests are done in a soundproof room, with the person wearing earphones. The tests are not painful or even uncomfortable. The tests are punctuated by breaks to encourage the person’s concentration and motivation.

Before the test
Patients taking a psychostimulant (Ritalin, for example) take their medication as usual before seeing the audiologist.

To help the audiologist make recommendations, reports from other professionals (speech therapy, special education, psychology, etc.) should be provided.

APD treatment and rehabilitation

After the audiology tests have been done, a meeting with the parents or patient to explain the results will be scheduled (at the end of the last meeting, at a later date or by telephone, depending on the situation). A full report is given to the parents, school and referring professional (doctor, speech therapist or other), with the conclusions and recommendations for improving the patient’s learning and development, at home, in school or at work.

Several measures may be put in place to limit the problems people with auditory processing disorders face. Some of these measures are audiology treatments, learning therapy with several listening strategies, acoustic modifications to the environment, specific placement in class and use of a frequency modulating (FM) system.

Remember: Audiologists are health professionals who are trained to answer your questions about auditory processing disorders and hearing health.