Pardon me? Can you say that again?
Posted: September 23 2021
Did you know that it’s possible to have normal hearing but still have difficulty understanding speech and other verbal cues? If this sounds like you or someone you know, it’s possible that it is an auditory processing disorder.
Auditory processing disorder, or APD, is a condition in which individuals have little or no hearing loss, but still have trouble understanding or processing auditory information. People with APD may report that they “hear but do not understand." They may have considerable trouble hearing in background noise, difficulty following verbal instructions, difficulties with reading and writing, and may frequently ask others to repeat themselves. When this type of disorder affects school-aged children, it can negatively impact their performance in school and cause them to fall behind their classmates.
Individuals with other neurological conditions, such as ADHD and autism, are at an increased risk for auditory processing disorder. In fact, APD often mimics attentional issues and it may seem that the affected person is simply not listening. Even after successful management of attention deficits, these individuals may still have difficulty understanding auditory information if APD is present. The risk of APD is also increased by things like: concussions, exposure to industrial solvents, premature birth or complications during pregnancy/ delivery, multiple ear infections in children, and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
A child must be at least 7 years (developmental age) in order to be assessed for APD. Testing begins with a thorough case history including the behavioural observations of parents and teachers. Then, a basic hearing test is administered in order to rule out undiagnosed hearing loss that may be causing the child’s difficulties. The results of the hearing test and case history are used to determine which APD tests will be used in the assessment. A series of screening tests are administered to determine if more in-depth testing should be recommended. If the screening tests indicate that APD is a possible diagnosis, more strenuous testing is conducted to confirm or rule out the disorder. These tests evaluate tasks such as hearing in background noise, recognizing patterns of sounds, and hearing two different words at once in opposite ears.
Luckily, there are interventions that can make living with an auditory processing disorder more manageable. These include assistive listening devices such as an FM system which streams an audio signal of the speaker’s voice directly into an earpiece. Other interventions such as Neurologic Music Therapy and auditory training programs delivered by a Speech-Language Pathologist may also be recommended depending on the type of auditory processing deficit that is diagnosed.
Whether or not APD is present, there are a number of management strategies that can improve hearing and communication for everyone. If you or someone you know has difficulty hearing or understanding, talk to an Audiologist to help determine how to best manage your symptoms and make communication easier for you.