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What is central auditory processing?

What is Central Auditory Processing?

Central Auditory Processing (CAP) refers to the efficiency and effectiveness by which our brains and auditory areas decode and use hearing information. This process is essentially how well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain understands what the ear tells it.

When our brain and auditory system is working normally we can pick out the important parts of the sounds we hear, filter out any noise, and then fill in the gaps to make sense of what we have just heard. This complex process consists of a wide range of skills that help us to make sense of the sounds we hear. These include skills like locating the buzz of our alarm clock in the morning, focusing on a conversation in a busy restaurant, and clearly understanding a teacher in a noisy classroom.

However, when our brain and auditory system stops working correctly, the ability for us to make sense of the sounds can become impaired, even though we can still ‘hear’ the sounds.

A delayed development or degeneration of the brain’s auditory system most commonly results in difficulty understanding speech in the presence of noise, and could be the result of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).

A Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) is when the brain and auditory system cannot correctly interpret the sounds that it is hearing.

Read more about what CAPD is.

What causes CAPD?

Identifying the causes of CAPD are often quite difficult. The individuality of brain auditory system organisation and the conditions that affect such organisation means that CAPD can affect individuals differently. Children that have chronic ear infections in their early years are at a greater risk of developing a CAPD.

The episodes of periodic hearing loss that accompanies chronic ear infections can result in the brains auditory system developing abnormally, increasing the likelihood of a CAPD. These can then carry on into adulthood where it is much less likely that an individual will be able to learn these skills.

Additionally, as we get older the number of cells and neurons in our brain decreases, making our brain’s auditory system work far less efficiently.

Read more about what causes CAPD.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder signs in children

Common signs of a potential central auditory processing disorder in children can include:

  • Child unable to remember and complete several instructions when given at one time (eg brush your teeth, comb your hair and pack school bag – only able to complete one task then forgetting rest)
  • Delayed speech development/trouble with sounds (mispronouncing words)
  • Trouble listening in background noise (in class, with TV on)
  • Appearing easily distracted/unable to maintain focus
  • Appearing to not listen, but can hear – difficulty recalling auditory information
  • Delayed reading skills/development
  • Doesn’t like loud sounds
  • Difficulty with expressive language/gets frustrated easily/cannot communicate emotions effectively
  • Reduced/delayed academic ability, poor academic performance
  • Difficulty with social development/getting along with other kids
  • Asking for repeats frequently, saying ‘what?’ ‘huh?’
  • Trouble localising where sound is coming from
  • Behavioural issues
  • Poor organisational skills
  • Fatigued after school/tasks that require attention and listening
  • Individuals with CAPD have a higher likelihood of behavioural, emotional, and social difficulties. Communication deficits and associated learning difficulties may adversely impact the development of self-esteem and feelings of self-worth.

While these signs may be noticed early on, it isn’t until 7 years of age that we can accurately diagnose a potential CAPD.

Early identification and remediation of CAPD may potentially lessen the likelihood that these secondary problems might emerge.

Read more about CAPD and children in the classroom.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder signs in adults

Changes in the functioning of our brains auditory system occur as we get older. One of the major effects of this change is a degradation of our auditory processing abilities. Common signs of a CAPD in adults include:

  • Difficulty understanding speech in background noise
  • Being unable to identify the source of a sound,
  • Inability to focus on a single voice.

How is it diagnosed?

The first step in testing for an auditory processing disorder is to conduct a hearing test. This is to establish whether the presence of a hearing loss may be a contributing factor. After ascertaining hearing thresholds, we then test more complex auditory processing skills.

The CAP assessment battery is predominately aimed at children. We assess a broad range of auditory processing skills with some assessments specifically identifying types of auditory processing disorders. For example, we offer a test of your child’s spatial hearing abilities that mimic a classroom situation. Following the results of this test we can then proceed to further investigate your child’s auditory processing abilities and identify any potential presence of CAPD.

For adults, we offer a full CAPD assessment battery.

Read more about diagnosing and testing for CAPD.

Are there any treatments for CAPD?

While there is no single ‘cure’ for CAPD, a number remediation strategies for both adults and children can be discussed with your audiologist which may include:

  • Listening strategies for the classroom
  • Active communication techniques for daily life
  • Listening exercises or computer software programs to improve auditory processing skills
  • Assistive listening devices such as FM microphones.

Read more about the treatment and management of CAPD…

Read more about Central Auditory processing disorder:

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