What is Auditory Processing Disorder? - Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that between five and seven percent of children are diagnosed with auditory processing disorder? Learn more about the disorder, its symptoms, and treatment. Then test your knowledge with a quiz.


Mary is attending the parent-teacher conference at her daughter Jill's school. Jill is eight years old and in the second grade. Jill's teacher tells Mary that Jill has trouble following multi-step directions and often appears to not be paying attention when given instructions. Jill often asks for clarification several times throughout the day, i.e. Jill says 'what?' at least six times during each class period. Directions have to be written down for Jill because she has trouble when they are given verbally. Jill forgets things that are said to her very quickly. She has trouble discriminating between sounds, i.e. she often confuses the 'st' sound with 'sc'. Jill also has problems carrying conversations with other students, i.e. she tends to overtalk and rarely allows other students to get a word in.

After further discussion with Jill's teacher and the school counselor, Mary decides to take Jill to see a child psychologist to be assessed for mental conditions, including learning disability and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The child psychologist notes that while there are impairments in several different areas, she does not believe that Jill's limitations are due to a mental condition. The child psychologist refers Jill to an audiologist, who diagnoses Jill with auditory processing disorder (APD).

Definition and Symptoms

Auditory processing disorder (APD), also referred to as central auditory processing disorder, is a neurological condition that affects the way in which the brain processes spoken language. APD interferes with the ability to receive, recall, comprehend, and apply auditory information even though hearing ability is normal. APD impairs the ability to listen, hinders speech and language development, and can influence learning ability. Despite these impairments, most individuals with APD possess normal intelligence. It is estimated that between five and seven percent of children have APD. Girls are twice as likely to be diagnosed with APD as boys.

People with auditory processing disorder have some sort of disconnect or interruption in the process of sound entering through the ear and being processed in the brain.
Hearing mechanics

Jill displayed several of the symptoms of APD. She had difficult following instructions, understanding verbal information, remembering verbal information, and listening. Jill had problems with mishearing information. She had trouble remembering and following multi-step verbal directions. Jill's ability to converse with her classmates was impaired. Jill also had language difficulties, i.e. she had trouble distinguishing between sounds.

Children with APD might have trouble with spelling, reading, and verbal math problems. Vocabulary may also be limited. Academic performance may suffer as a result. It might take children with APD longer to process verbal information. They may have short attention spans. Children with APD can easily be distracted by noises and work best in quiet environments. It is often difficult for children with APD to organize their thoughts. They may also have trouble with motor abilities and find it difficult to sit still.

Many of the symptoms of APD are also symptoms of other childhood conditions, such as learning disabilities and ADHD, which has resulted in misdiagnosis and misunderstandings regarding APD. Furthermore, not everyone who has a language or learning impairment has APD. Similarly, not everyone who has APD will have a learning or language impairment. It is also important to note that APD is not the result of autism, intellectual disability, or similar higher-order deficits.

A student with APD may appear to be not paying attention to the same thing as other students.
Student not paying attention

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