When The Brain Doesn’t Listen

About Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

The human auditory system can be divided into two main parts. The peripheral auditory system includes the outer, middle and inner ear and the auditory nerve. The peripheral auditory system detects sound and changes that sound into a signal that the brain can use. The central auditory system consists of the brainstem and brain, which interpret the information sent to it by the ear. One way to describe auditory processing is “what we do with what we hear”.

Central auditory processing is a complex set of skills. It is not surprising that a child who has difficulties with central auditory processing can have difficulty in a wide variety of areas. A child with CAPD may exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • has difficulty understanding speech in noisy and group situations
  • has a short attention span, or is easily distracted by noise
  • becomes anxious or stressed when required to listen
  • has difficulty following directions
  • may have an unusual sensitivity to loud sounds (hyperacusis)
  • seems to hear, but not understand what people say
  • has trouble remembering what was said
  • has poor speech/language skills
  • has poor reading/spelling skills
  • receives very different scores on the verbal skills and other skills section of IQ tests
  • is disorganized
  • has poor peer relations and/or poor self-esteem

If your child displays any or even all of these characteristics, it does not automatically mean he or she has CAPD. There are other disorders that can also have similar characteristics. This is because the ability to do most of the activities in the list above (such as reading) require more than just good listening skills. All of these activities rely on good auditory processing to some degree, but many disorders can result in poor reading, poor spelling or poor performance in a noisy environment. Because of that, special tests of central auditory skills are becoming a more common part of a team’s evaluation of children’s skills. CAPD may be the cause of these difficulties, it may coexist with some other disorder to create these difficulties, or these difficulties may be present due to some cause other than CAPD.