According to Hearing Health Foundation, about 5% of the U.S. population of school-aged children (2.5 million) have auditory processing disorder, or APD, with some researchers estimating the true impact could be up to 12% of the population.

APD is difficult to identify because most hearing assessments show normal or near-normal hearing.

Because of the effect it has on the cognitive and social development of children, which impedes language development and academic progress, I want to help raise awareness of this condition so that Gold Country patients will find the answers they need.

Defining APD

Auditory processing disorder is a condition that involves how the brain processes speech. Essentially, the ears and brain do not fully coordinate even though the person has normal to near-normal hearing.

Although they hear what someone is saying, they struggle with deciphering what is being said, so they cannot really understand.

APD affects individuals most when there is background noise, multiple conversations, or they’re not facing the speaker. People struggling with APD have difficulty picking up on the subtle differences between various words such as cat, bat, and that or seventy and seventeen.

Understood notes four categories of processing skills that are limited or lacking in people who struggle with auditory processing disorder, including:

  • Auditory discrimination: noticing, comparing, and distinguishing between separate sounds
  • Auditory figure-ground discrimination: focusing on the important sounds in a noisy setting
  • Auditory memory: recalling what they heard (short or long term)
  • Auditory sequencing: understanding and recalling the order of sounds and words

The effects of APD lead most to assume that the person is experiencing a hearing loss, but when their hearing tests normal, identifying the cause becomes a struggle.

Who Is Affected By APD?

Auditory processing disorder is most prominent in school-aged children in association with their developmental process, but it either goes away or is better dealt with as they become adults.

It often runs hand-in-hand with dyslexia, is often misdiagnosed as ADHD or vice versa, and is a common secondary diagnosis in individuals with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD or autism).

A smaller percentage of adults may also experience APD, especially along with hearing loss and those experiencing cognitive decline.

An estimated 15% of military veterans are affected by APD in relation to blast exposure and neurological disorders due to brain injuries (i.e., stroke, traumatic brain injury, tumors, epilepsy) can lead to processing difficulties.

Gold Country Addresses APD

The social and academic limitations that auditory processing disorder imposes on school-aged children are among my greatest concerns.

If auditory processing goes untreated, the kids go through school, and they build scaffolding without a good foundation.

Consequently, the team and I at Gold Country Hearing and Balance take the extra steps necessary to diagnose and treat children who demonstrate normal hearing but struggle with speech-related communication.

We give them practice and provide compensatory strategies to be successful and have conversations in workplaces or school and not be absolutely drained by the end of the day because they’re working so hard to figure everything out.

If you suspect that your child or loved one could be struggling with auditory processing disorder, your first step is to contact our Gold Country Hearing and Balance clinic 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.