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Auditory Processing Disorders


Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition that makes it difficult to recognize subtle differences between sounds in words. This condition is more common in children, especially boys, but is also present in adults as well.  Individuals with an auditory processing disorder typically have normal hearing but struggle to process and make sense of sounds, especially in the presence of background noise. Typically, the brain processes sound seamlessly and almost instantly. Most people can quickly interpret what they hear. But with APD, some kind of malfunction delays or “scrambles” that process.

ListeningAn auditory processing disorder oftentimes can mimic symptoms of a hearing loss. The affected person will express difficulties hearing in background noise, may have problems following multi-step directions and have a difficult time following conversations. These difficulties will often lead them to seek out a hearing evaluation. Sometimes there are hearing difficulties or medical issues that are remediated and addressed, such as an ear infection, but what do you do when you are experiencing these difficulties and are found to have a normal hearing evaluation? Oftentimes people are confused and are left thinking “what is the next step”. That next step may very well be an auditory processing evaluation. Symptoms of an auditory processing disorder include trouble with reading and spelling, poor musical ability, difficulty learning songs or nursery rhymes and trouble retaining details of what was read or heard in a story. Although the exact causes of APD are still unknown, there is much that can be done to help you with hearing and understanding.

Comprehensive auditory processing evaluations are offered at the Central Illinois Hearing and Balance Center with our audiologist Dr. Capobianco, who has had extensive training in auditory processing evaluation and treatment. Give us a call at 309-661-0232 to speak with Dr. Capobianco regarding your auditory processing needs.

How is APD differentiated from learning disabilities, language disorders, and ADHD?

All of these disorders share common characteristics and are often interrelated. Many patients may present with difficulty learning in the auditory modality, especially those with speech language and learning disabilities; however, there are many disorders that can affect a patients’s ability to understand auditory information. For example, individuals with ADHD may be poor listeners and have trouble understanding and remembering verbal information but the act of processing auditory input is intact. It is important to remember that APD is an auditory deficit that is not the result of other higher order cognitive, language, or related disorders. Hence, there is significant co-morbidity within this group of problems. APD is differentiated from these other disorders when the deficit occurs primarily in the auditory modality. Auditory attention deficits are often confused with the global attention deficit present in ADHD. APD students with auditory attention issues have difficulties described above. As opposed to APD, ADHD students are commonly referred to as hyperactive, fidgety, restless, hasty, impulsive, intrusive and interrupting.

General Information About Auditory Processing


  • The patient has passed a hearing screening in the past year
  • The patient is seven years of age or older
  • The patient is English proficient; APD assessments are normed on native English speakers
  • The patient has intelligible speech; if speech is not intelligible, it will be difficult to differentiate a production error from a processing error
  • The patient’s cognitive function (non-verbal scales) is within the average range

Some typical behaviors of auditory processing include:

  • Behaves as if a hearing loss is present, despite normal hearing
  • Performs better in quiet environments, struggles in background noise
  • Has poor musical abilities and does not recognize sound patterns or rythms; has poor vocal prosody in speech production
  • Poor spelling, phonics, and writing, Will have difficulty using phonemes and manipulating them.
  • Poor word retrieval
  • Demonstrates scatter across subtests with weakness in auditory-dependent areas.
  • May see a discrepancy between expressive and receptive language
  • Instructions are missed or followed in the wrong order
  • Responds inconsistently to auditory information or has inconsistent auditory awareness. If there are multiple speakers, they have issues trying to decide who they need to listen to.

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