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Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

  • What is central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)?

    Auditory processing disorder

    Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), also known as auditory processing disorder (APD), is a group name for a number of disorders that affect the hearing process. Although people with CAPD have normal hearing, their brains are unable to process and make sense of what they are hearing.

    CAPD affects the auditory processing of both adults and children. However, the condition often starts in childhood, and boys are more prone to it than girls. Auditory processing disorder causes difficulty in understanding language due to a distortion of the auditory (hearing) signal. Some main traits of CAPD in children are the inability to decipher speech in noisy places, difficulty following directions and conversations, poor decoding skills, distraction and learning difficulties.

  • While the cause of CAPD is not known, CAPD can occur due to the abnormal processing of auditory information by the brain, which can be a result of the late development of the central auditory system.

    Some developmental abnormalities have been linked to CAPD, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), dyslexia and language impairments.

    There is also some evidence suggesting that children with neurological (brain and nerves) disorders, head injury and chronic ear infections can also suffer from CAPD.

    Risk factors for CAPD

    While the main cause of CAPD is unknown, there are factors that may increase the likelihood of developing CAPD:

    • Low birth weight or premature birth – Premature infants (born more than 3 weeks before due date) and newborns weighing 2.5kg or below are at high risk of having CAPD.
    • Ear infections in infancy and early childhood – Ear infections in children are caused by a virus or bacteria and may lead to fluid buildup in the eustachian tube, which clears mucus from the middle ear into the nasopharynx. When fluid does not drain normally from the middle ear, infection may develop. This often occurs when a child has a cold, sinus infection, or allergies.
    • Head injury during infancy – Serious head injuries related to accidents or child abuse may lead to bruises, bumps, cuts in the scalp or brain damage. Head injury is a risk factor for CAPD.
    • Lead poisoning – This is the type of metal poisoning caused by the presence of lead in the body.

    Preventing CAPD

    As the root cause of CAPD is still unknown, it is not possible to prevent it. However, one can prevent further learning disabilities and challenges by providing one’s child treatment for the disorder as early as possible.

  • The symptoms of CAPD can display in different forms and can range from mild to severe. They include:

    • Late speech and language development
    • Difficulty concentrating and understanding fast or unclear speech
    • Difficulty replying to questions
    • Being distracted and inattentive
    • Frequently asking for information to be repeated
    • Poor listening abilities
    • Poor performance in big groups
    • Poor self-esteem and anxiety
    • Reading, writing and spelling difficulties
    • Sensitivity to loud sounds
    • Trouble finding the source of a sound
    • Trouble telling the difference between sounds
    • Trouble listening and understanding speech in noisy environments
    • Trouble remembering information that was heard

    Seek medical attention immediately if you observe if you have trouble with hearing. An audiologist can do special tests to determine the problem and recommend suitable treatments.

  • If you have hearing trouble, your doctor may recommend the following tests:

    Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) Tests

    Currently, most APD tests are made for children aged 7 and above. A hearing test is used to see if the child's issues are caused by hearing loss. A series of advanced listening tests will check how a patient responds to different sounds.

    Standard hearing tests

    These safe and painless tests will confirm the type and degree of hearing loss. Performed in a soundproof booth, hearing tests are often done with the use of specially designed headphones. The test results are placed on an audiogram, which is a visual representation of the degree of hearing loss.

    Cognitive screening

    Cognitive processes are related to auditory processing. Thus, cognitive screening is one of the diagnostic tests for CAPD.

    Language screening

    A speech and language screening does a 30-minute assessment of the child's speech (sound pronunciation) and language (answering questions, following directions, naming vocabulary, processing information, etc.), observing play and social interactions, and writing and reading abilities.

  • While there is currently no cure for central auditory processing disorder, there are different treatment options available that aim to improve this condition. A speech therapist will assess the condition and recommend a suitable treatment based on its severity.

    Treatment may include:

    Individual speech therapy sessions

    Speech therapy is a big help for people with CAPD. The aim of the therapy is to train auditory processing pathways.

    Intervention to adjust a child's learning environments

    The learning environment of a child is very important in managing CAPD. It is important for parents and educators create an environment that considers the following:

    • Assigning seats away from windows and other distractions
    • Assigning seats close to teachers in the classroom
    • Reducing background noise whenever possible
    • Using hearing aids to increase speech signals and direct them to the child's ears
    • Using visual aids such as handouts and diagrams to help the child follow the lesson

    Proper diagnosis is crucial to determine the most suitable treatment for you. Consult a specialist at Parkway East Hospital. With the aid of medical equipment, our team of experienced specialists and nurses will work together to come up with an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan for your condition.

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  • CAPD affects the brain's ability to filter and interpret sounds. Patients with this disorder have a hard time receiving, organising, and using auditory information. They are able to hear, but unable to listen. If this is not addressed, it may cause complications such as brain maturation delays and brain traumas or tumours. Hence, it is always best to seek immediate medical attention when symptoms are present.

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