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Is Your Child Not Listening, or Is It Auditory Processing Disorder?

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

Do you feel like your child hears you but frequently doesn’t understand? Does he or she fail to follow directions in school or regularly need others to repeat themselves? Their ears may not be the problem. Auditory processing is what the brain does with what the ears hear.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) occurs when a person hears fine, but the brain doesn’t process incoming information quickly or correctly. When this physical issue goes undiagnosed, especially in children, it can impact their emotional health as they struggle to effectively communicate. This can affect their ability to build social relationships as well as hinder learning and school performance. Fortunately, with an audiologist’s guidance and treatment, APD doesn’t have to be so overwhelming.

Common Symptoms of APD

  • Trouble focusing or paying attention
  • Asking for a lot of repetition
  • Feeling overwhelmed in a noisy environment
  • Difficulty hearing and understanding speech in a noisy environment
  • Difficulty following instructions
  • Learning/academic struggles
  • Misunderstanding words
  • Problems understanding jokes and sarcasm

Everyday Life with APD

One of the things that makes Florida Hospital audiologist Lisa Spiegel such a good resource is the fact that she lives with APD herself.

“If I’m in a noisy restaurant, I struggle to make sense of what is being said and find that I must rely on lip reading,” she says. “If I’m in a lecture and someone opens a candy wrapper behind me, all I can hear is the crinkle of the candy wrapper. I can no longer understand the person speaking at the front of the room.”

Unfortunately, since auditory processing issues are invisible to those around you, difficulty with communication can be very frustrating. This is especially hard on schoolchildren who may not understand or be able to express their limitations when they have underlying, undiagnosed processing problems.

Diagnosing the Disorder

If your child is experiencing some of the APD symptoms, it’s important to first rule out hearing loss. After a hearing test, they are given a number of other tests that assess different areas of the auditory system.

“We look at how well information is communicated from one side of the brain to the other and if a person can understand when different information is presented to each ear,” explains Dr. Spiegel. “There are tests to determine how well a person can identify individual sounds of speech, including stress and intonation. Also, how well they can fill in the gaps if they miss part of the signal due to distortion or other noises getting in the way.” While a screening can be conducted as early as five years old, diagnostic testing can start at age seven.

Custom Treatment Plans

Audiologists and speech-language pathologists often work together to carefully identify and manage APD. Once a diagnosis of APD is made and problem areas are determined, recommendations for management will be provided. A specific plan for therapy is then developed based on any individual areas of weakness. Therapy may include working one-on-one with a speech-language pathologist or in a group setting.

We understand that it can be hard to articulate your child’s troubles when it comes to listening and processing. Audiologists like Dr. Spiegel are prepared to patiently guide you and your family every step of the way.

If you think you or someone you love may be struggling with an undiagnosed Auditory Processing Disorder, consider getting a referral from your physician for a full evaluation. Feel free to contact our scheduling line at (407) 303-8080 to make an appointment or visit FHSportsMed.com/Hearing for more information.