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Auditory Processing Disorder

Do you have trouble understanding speech in noisy places?

If so, you may be suffering from auditory processing disorder (APD). APD is a common condition that affects the way the brain processes sound. It can make it difficult to understand what people are saying even when there isn’t background noise.

The good news is that APD can be treated with special exercises and therapies. In fact, most children who receive treatment for APD experience significant improvements in their ability to process sounds and speak clearly.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder?

People with auditory processing disorder usually have normal looking and functioning ears. The thing is, even with normal functioning ears, people with auditory processing disorder find it challenging to process information in the same way as others do. This leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech. 

According to the American Academy of Audiology, auditory processing disorder is diagnosed by difficulties in one or more auditory processes known to reflect the function of the central auditory nervous system. Auditory processing disorder can affect both children and adults, but it’s not always easy to tell because some people don’t know they have it until they experience symptoms like trouble understanding speech or music. Although no one knows for sure how prevalent this disorder is, studies show that 2-7% of children have been diagnosed with APD in the US and UK.

Auditory Processing Disorder Signs and Symptoms

Many people who are diagnosed with ADHD experience a wide range of symptoms. These include: 

talking too loudly or too softly, 

forgetting what they were doing from one moment to the next, 

often needing words repeated back,

trouble remembering a sequence or list,

needing a quiet work space away from others

For those adults that suffer from this disorder, it can be difficult to concentrate on new tasks such as memorizing information learned by listening.

Auditory Processing Disorder and its link to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

It has been noted that auditory processing disorder is linked to ADHD. In a review published in Ear and Hearing, a study showed that 10% of children with APD have confirmed or suspected ADHD. It also stated that it’s sometimes difficult to see the difference between the two, since the characteristics and symptoms of APD and ADHD tend to overlap. 

A person with ADHD may be inattentive, distracted, fidgety, restless, and hyperactive. Meanwhile, a person with auditory processing disorder may have difficulty hearing in background noise, difficulty in following verbal instructions, poor listening skills and may appear to be distracted. That being said, you can see that their symptoms really do overlap, right?

This is why it’s important to not self-diagnose and seek medical attention as soon as you notice any of these symptoms. At Ontario Hearing Centers, we can give you a communication assessment to establish if you have auditory processing disorder and provide  options to help you enjoy better communication and social relationships.

Causes of Auditory Processing Disorder


Acquired auditory processing may be caused by any dysfunction or damage in the central auditory nervous system.


Some people with auditory processing disorder experience difficulties with speech perception, language comprehension, and word decoding. These disorders are just like any other disabilities that can be affected by genetic traits. It is similar to how some disabilities are associated with certain genetic traits such as developmental disorders


In most cases of auditory processing disorder, the cause is primarily unknown. However, there is an exception with acquired epileptic aphasia or Landau-Kleffner syndrome. In this case, a child’s development regresses, affecting language comprehension.


In some cases, somatic anxiety and stressful situations are the determinants of speech-hearing disability triggering auditory processing disorder.

What causes APD in adults?

For many children, they are born with a condition called auditory processing disorder (APD), which is when the brain cannot process or understand what it hears.

But for adults, the cause of APD in adults may range from head trauma, genetics, tumors, auditory deprivation (untreated hearing loss) and periods of anoxia. In some cases, the cause is unknown.

After a head injury, many people experience auditory symptoms that can be as confusing and debilitating as the initial trauma. Tinnitus, peripheral hearing loss, hyperacusis (increased sensitivity to sound), and difficulty processing information are the most common issues after head injury or post-concussive syndrome.

Do adults with APD have the same symptoms and presenting complaints as children with APD?

Most of the auditory symptoms are difficult to deal with, including difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments or when rapid talkers are speaking, as well as difficulties following directions or understanding verbal presentations. Sometimes they can be quite frustrating and even lead to mishearing.

Differences between children and adult sufferers are largely related to the severity of their symptoms – where children might struggle only academically while adults feel profound emotional impacts as well. Adults find themselves struggling to maintain connections with friends, family members, and colleagues.

The effects of APD on an adult’s daily life depend greatly on whether you’re an adult or a child. For adults, the social aspect is often most affected, which can make it difficult to communicate in the workplace. 

Do adults with APD closely resemble adults with hearing loss?

Adults with APD often don’t get the help they need because their symptoms are misunderstood.

The problem is that many adults who have a history of auditory processing difficulties in childhood continue to experience them as adults, but without any apparent hearing loss. They may be told by friends and family that they’re just “hard of hearing,” and encouraged to give up on wearing hearing aids altogether.

The symptoms of auditory processing disorder (APD) are similar to those of hearing loss, and many people don’t realize that this is the case until they’ve tried several different types of amplification. They could be feeling frustrated because no matter what type or style of device they use, it never seems to work well enough for them. Or perhaps family members have been insisting that something must be wrong with their ears if all these expensive devices aren’t working out for them.

But there’s no reason why people with APD can’t achieve satisfying results from amplification if given proper diagnosis and guidance in choosing appropriate devices. That’s where we come in! Our audiologists at Ontario Hearing Center specialize in diagnosing and treating adult patients with APD, whether or not they also exhibit peripheral hearing loss, so you’ll receive the expert care you deserve when seeking treatment for this condition at our clinic.

Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder

People with auditory processing disorder often have difficulty understanding or interpreting what is being said, due to a problem in how their brain processes speech sounds. This condition is usually detected during childhood or adolescence but can be missed if it has been undiagnosed up until now. If you are experiencing difficulties while speaking or understanding others when they speak, this could be due to an undiagnosed APD.

People may not realize that auditory processing disorder is an impairment that doesn’t show up on routine screenings or an audiogram. This means people with this condition are often misdiagnosed and face various challenges in school and life.

It’s tough to make sense of auditory processing disorder. You hear the world around you just fine, but find that what you do hear is misinterpreted. When it comes time for a formal hearing test, your results are often “normal” and yet something still isn’t right.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has auditory processing disorder, visit an audiologist to be properly diagnosed. Ontario Hearing Center offers APD diagnosis and treatment.

How does the screening and diagnostic process for APD differ in adults from that of kids?

Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a common cause of learning disability, but the diagnosis can be challenging. 

We often have to explain the diagnostic process for adults and children.

Adults with APD are usually referred to speech-language pathology by their employer or spouse, whereas kids are typically diagnosed in school. 

The diagnostic process for adult and child APD is actually quite similar. Both groups undergo a battery of tests including assessment of language skills (both spoken and written), cognitive abilities, auditory processing skills, as well as an evaluation of educational background and performance.

A major challenge in diagnosing APD is that it cannot be directly observed and requires careful evaluation by an audiologist or other qualified professional. The diagnosis relies on behavioral observations and performance on standardized tests of auditory perception, attention, memory, language skills and academic achievement. 

To make matters worse for parents seeking help for their struggling child with these issues, many doctors are not familiar with APD as a diagnostic entity. This makes getting a correct diagnosis even more difficult than it already is. Many children go undiagnosed because they are misdiagnosed with ADHD or some other condition. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD you may want to ask your doctor about APD as well. It could turn out to be the answer you have been looking for.

Does auditory processing disorder get worse with age?

The more you age, the less your hearing gets better. The auditory nerve becomes less flexible with age and that can make it harder to listen and process language, especially in noisy places.

Auditory Processing Disorder - Treatment and Management

As more and more information about auditory processing disorder is revealed, more and more intervention and treatment options are available. Since auditory processing disorder is more about hearing and comprehension issues, environmental modifications can be really useful.

When hearing loss is present with auditory processing disorder, using hearing aids or an FM listening system is highly recommended. An audiologist would be the best medical professional to advise you on this treatment. Corrective treatments and brain training programs can also help people with auditory processing disorder to live and function normally in any listening situation.

Hearing Aids and Audiologist - Rochester, NY

To know more about auditory processing disorder or other hearing-related concerns, our hearing healthcare professionals are happy to help. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!