Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Learn about central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)and how you can cope with it.

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is an impaired ability to recognize and comprehend auditory information. People with this disorder may have problems following directions and processing or comprehending information they hear. Environments with acoustic problems or background noise may exacerbate the problem.


Central auditory processing disorder is considered a language and learning disorder. It is associated with hearing problems and/ or cognitive problems. Symptoms include but are not limited to: needing TV's and radios louder than normal, interpreting words too literally, problems understanding rapid conversation, confusing similar sounding words, poor memorization, need to watch person speaking to understand, asking excessive number of questions, difficulty following directions, is easily distracted, has trouble sounding out words, and asks people to repeat phrases often.

Many of these signs are normal parts of child development. Just because you recognize one of these behaviors in your child does not mean that he or she has CAPD. However, if he or she displays more than four, you may wish to consult a learning disability expert either through your school or pediatrician to do some testing and find out what is going on. Some of these behaviors can be explained by a middle ear problem such as fluid in the ear. However, it is important for parents not to withhold information hoping for an easier diagnosis. As difficult as it might be to face the reality of a child with a learning disability, the more head on you face the problem, the less of a problem it will be for your child.


Testing for central auditory processing disorder involves an audiologist to evaluate peripheral hearing loss, a doctor ruling out medical causes, an educator providing information on academic progress, a speech and language pathologist to evaluate language development, and perhaps a psychologist to evaluate cognitive problems. The detailed information provided by the audiologist is perhaps the most important.

Coping Strategies

People with CAPD often have difficulty with background noise. Altering the acoustics of the environment can help them process the sounds around them. Reducing reverberation within a room with curtains, etc. is helpful. In a classroom environment a person with CAPD should be seated up front where they have a good view of the teacher. Being able to see the person talking to them is helpful.

Teachers working with students who have CAPD can help in a number of ways. They can make sure the student is paying attention when they begin anything new. Get the student's eye contact before proceeding. Monitor the child's progress periodically by asking them questions and making sure they have understood what has been said so far before continuing on. Instead of repeating information, rephrase it. Incorporate rephrasing techniques in lesson plans by stating definitions two or more ways using different words each time. Other students will benefit from this as well. Use brief instructions. Keep your classroom procedures as simple as possible to limit confusion. Give parents copies of your notes or lesson plans ahead of time if possible so that they may be helpful in preparing students. Give students copies of key vocabulary and write it on the board. Write your instructions on the board or give copies out. While the opposite is try for some other students understand the written word better than hearing instructions. Use lots of visual aids. Providing a picture or an object that can been seen and touched may help students process information. Organize your time to provide individual help. Whenever possible have some "˜down time' incorporated into your lesson plan so that you may visit with students individually and check on their understanding. Give lots of breaks. Break up your lessons into smaller chunks of time. All these techniques will help students with CAPD be more successful in the classroom. They are also quite helpful to the average student as well.

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