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What is an Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder or APD is a general term that refers to to the way in which the brain processes auditory information. APD is not caused by a loss of any hearing or audible sensory impairment. APD sufferers have a normal hearing ability, but information is encoded and processed differently by the brain.

Someone may say, “Come over here,” while the person with APD “heard it” as “Go over there.” A misinterpretation is the root cause of APD. Sufferers of APD often have to “fill in gaps” when they hear a speech as they only process some of the words, rather than the complete thought in the form of sentences.

APD can be genetic; or may be acquired through ear infection, head injuries, or developmental delay problems in the central nervous system that affects auditory processes. There is no cure, only various types of therapy and learning processes such as Auditory Integration Training. These programs are not scientifically proven to work, as more research and study is needed.

APD is often misdiagnosed as dyslexia, ADHD, Aspergers syndrome, or other mild forms of autism, as symptoms overlap, particularly with ADHD and dyslexia. Approximately 2-3% of children and an astounding 17-20% of adults have APD according to Labome Biomedical Knowledge Organization.

The American Speech-Language Association (ASHA) published a research status report that complements the Committee of UK Medical Professionals definition of what compromises and truly defines Auditory Processing Disorder.

The offical report states that “APD results from impaired neural function and is characterized by poor recognition, discrimination, separation, grouping, localization, or ordering of non-speech sounds. It does not solely result from a deficit in general attention, language, or other cognitive processes.”

APD is loosely defined as a combination of characteristics. Since APD is describing multiple related disorders with regard to auditory processing, one definition cannot possibly suffice. All definitions refer to problems with the auditory processing of the brain. A diagnosis is based on the following factors: problems with sound localization and auditory discrimination; issues with auditory patterns, temporal ordering problems, and degraded processing of acoustic sounds.

However, these types of diagnoses are based on the findings of ASHA and the Committee of UK Medical Professionals. Other publications such as PubMed, the US Library of Medicine, have a different way as to how someone should be diagnosed with APD. The recommended method of diagnosis is one of specific modality. Auditory Processing Disorder can be recognized solely by testing the information processing of what the patient hears, and visual tests are not necessary. This is in contrast to ASHA’s report, which recommends testing using visuals mixed with speech and non-speech.

APD is a misunderstood disorder, and more accurately, its true diagnosis and definition are relative to the tests conducted for diagnosis. What can be agreed upon are the characteristics that make up APD.

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) authored “Auditory Processing Disorder in Children,” which explains the common characteristics of APD.

Children with the disorder tend to have trouble paying attention, remembering oral instructions, especially multi-step; have poor listening skills, require more processing time, have language difficulties, difficulty in reading comprehension, and cannot detect the direction of sounds. These children also tend to dislike background noise, prefer written communication (chatting online with text), have problems confusing similar sounds, hear a speech in a different context, words may sound chopped, and they fill in “the gaps” from a speech they heard.

APD patients are often very visual and prefer visual learning processes. With a visual representation, less verbal process encoding is required, while more visual information is acquired normally.

Auditory Processsing Disorder patients generally have some common character traits. They tend to be quiet, shy, and withdrawn. Interpersonal relationships are hampered by difficulty in speech and recognition. APD may be present with other disorders such as ADHD and dyslexia. While there is no cure for APD, ASHA research and studies continue.

Sources and Citations in Order Used:

Auditory Integration Training – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_Integration_Training

Labome Biomedical Knowledge Organization -http://www.latrobe.edu.au/hcs/resources/capd/capd/index.html

ASHA – http://www.asha.org/docs/html/TR2005-00043.html

Committee of UK Medical Professionals – http://www.thebsa.org.uk/apd/Home.htm

PubMed, the US Library of Medicine – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16489868

NIDCD – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16489868

Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_processing_disorder