Children and adults seen at the Able Kids Foundation perform well on traditional hearing tests, but are unable to efficiently process or understand speech when placed in environments with even minimal noises. Although hearing loss is commonly recognized, a significant and often misunderstood auditory challenge is a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). When an individual has difficulty processing auditory information efficiently, it can impact ones’ ability to concentrate thus affecting academic performance and quality of work. Relationships, emotional status, and overall well-being can also suffer. Environments such as classrooms, the work place, and social situations are often very difficult for these individuals because of confusing verbal stimuli.
Central auditory processing disorder may occur as an isolated dysfunction or it can also occur along with other disorders such as autism, ADD/ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction, learning disabilities, speech and language deficits, visual processing difficulties, traumatic brain injury, or other neurological conditions. We observe several behaviors common in individuals with CAPD.
The central auditory nervous system (CANS) is a maturing system and typically reaches adult level function around ten to eleven years of age. The mature, efficient CANS assigns priority to certain sounds and words that are useful to us, while simultaneously suppressing unwanted auditory stimuli. This process of prioritizing auditory information prevents all sounds from running together in a “listening chaos.” At the Able Kids Foundation, we believe, and continue to observe throughout our studies, that the auditory system is perhaps the most important sensory system because it provides an avenue for communication. Good auditory input is critical for overall function. We are continually made aware of life disruptions that occur in individuals with auditory challenges. Academic challenges, social difficulties, emotional upheavals, work difficulties, unemployment, and school drop-out situations are just a few of the disruptions we observe as being conditions associated with CAPD. Some people outgrow their auditory processing difficulties while others do not; however, early identification allows supports to be in place before a child’s learning experience and academic performance are altered.