“My kid is kind of out of touch, asks ‘What?’ a lot, and can’t follow multi-step directions.” It’s normal for kids to have a short attention span and not pay close attention when you speak, but if the above statement is an ongoing or frequent description of your child, auditory processing disorder (APD) could be the cause.

Because individuals with APD typically show normal or near-normal hearing during hearing screenings, it is often difficult to identify.

Its effect on the cognitive and social development of children is a major concern to me, so I hope to provide greater awareness of APD to Gold Country patients who are struggling to find the answers they need.

What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder relates to how the brain processes speech. In essence, it is a form of dis-coordination between the ears and brain that occurs even though the person demonstrates normal hearing.

An individual with APD may hear what someone is saying, but they struggle to make sense of what is being said or cannot really understand.

About 5% (2.5 million) of American school-aged children struggle with APD, according to Hearing Health Foundation. However, some researchers estimate that its true impact could be as high as 12% of the population.

The condition limits social and academic development due to a decreased ability to fully process conversations or follow instructions, especially in settings with a lot of background noise or multiple conversations. Although it is most common in school-aged children, APD can also affect adults.

Common Signs Or Symptoms Of APD

Like most conditions, APD can present in different ways. The most common descriptions of an individual experiencing auditory processing disorder include:

  • Slow to respond when spoken to
  • Strange response to questions or conversations
  • Frequently asking the speaker to repeat what they said
  • Completing some but not all steps in a series of instructions
  • Difficulty with spelling
  • Withdrawal in the classroom or during social activities
  • Extreme fatigue in the classroom or during social activities
  • Improved understanding when looking at the speaker in a one-on-one conversation

These symptoms are often similar to someone experiencing a hearing loss, confounding parents, doctors, and psychologists when normal hearing shows up on a hearing assessment.

The issue typically relates to difficulty processing the subtle differences between various speech sounds.

For example, a person with APD may not distinguish the difference between bat, cat, and that or fifty and fifteen. Additionally, words in a sentence can become scrambled so that “How are the chair and couch alike?” could be interpreted as “How the cow and hair are like?”

APD Is A Major Concern To Us

Auditory processing disorder is among my greatest concerns as an audiologist because of the social and academic limitations on school-aged children.

When kids with APD go through school, school steamrolls ahead, and they build scaffolding without a good foundation, it has severe consequences on their lifestyle and quality of life moving forward.

The Gold Country Hearing and Balance team and I take extra steps to test children who demonstrate normal hearing but struggle with speech-related communication to identify APD.

With practice and compensatory strategies, individuals with APD can be successful and enjoy conversations in school and the workplace as they go about their day-to-day life.

If you suspect that your child or loved one might be struggling with auditory processing disorder, your first step is to schedule a hearing assessment at one of our Gold Country Hearing and Balance locations in Grass Valley, Rocklin, Sacramento, or Lodi, California.

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Tracy Volkman , Au.D.

Dr. Tracy Volkman believes investing in the lives of her patients is the key to meeting their communication needs. She is committed to helping them find the best solution to improve their hearing and improve their quality of life. Tracy graduated from CSU Sacramento with a Master’s Degree in 2003 and earned her Doctorate degree in Audiology from A.T. Still University, School of Health Sciences in 2011.