What is Central Auditory Processing?

Central Auditory Processing is the ability to perceive, understand, or interpret sound. To put it more simply, central auditory processing is what we do with what we hear. Auditory processing is different from the ability to hear sounds, speech or to have a hearing loss. A hearing loss is usually the result of a problem with the peripheral or the physical structures of the auditory system. Central auditory processing involves cerebral or brain structures where the auditory message is interpreted and understood.  

What is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)?  

Central Auditory Processing involves the ability to understand as well as to remember what is heard, sequence or recall what was heard in the exact order that the information was presented. This would also include a child’s ability to follow directions appropriately as well as fill in missing pieces in order to complete the message. A Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) may interfere with the individual’s ability to analyze or make sense of the information received or heard. This type of processing deficit can also interfere with the development of speech and language skills, and with learning, especially reading, writing & spelling. Consequently, when information is presented auditorily in school, the student with a CAPD may ultimately experience serious difficulty understanding the lesson and/or the directions being presented. These difficulties will negatively impact academic success as well as social and emotional achievement.

How is CAPD Diagnosed?

A licensed Audiologist who has specialized training in the evaluation of individuals experiencing auditory processing difficulties administers a battery of tests which are specifically designed to measure and identify areas of deficit.  The test battery will routinely begin with a hearing test and will then be sensitive to a variety of areas such as:

1. Phonological Awareness -  the understanding that language consists of individual sounds 
(phonemes) which are connected or blended together in order to form spoken or written words. This awareness provides us with a fundamental precursor to reading. Children who have difficulty with phonological awareness will most likely be unable to identify, or recognize similarities between words. These deficits can affect all areas of language including reading, writing, spelling, and understanding of spoken language.

2. Auditory Discrimination -  the ability to recognize differences in phonemes (sounds) enabling the individual to identify words and sounds that are similar and different.

3. Auditory Memory -  the ability to store and recall information which was presented verbally. Deficits with auditory memory will manifest in an inability to follow verbal instructions or to recall information from a story read aloud.

4. Auditory Sequencing -  the ability to remember or recall the exact order that information was verbally presented. For example, being able to remember the order of items on a list or the order of sounds in a word or syllable.

5. Auditory Blending -  the process of putting phonemes (sounds) together to form words. For example, the individual phonemes “C”, “A”, and “T” form the word “CAT”.

6. Auditory Figure Ground or Tolerance -  the ability to focus on a primary auditory message in the presence of competing stimuli. For example, having the ability to listen to the teacher when other people are making noise in the hallway.

7. Auditory Closure - the ability to perceive the whole when parts are missing or to fill in missing auditory information.

When the test battery is completed and the results are reviewed, the Audiologist, as well as the 
Speech-Language Pathologist will to design a plan for therapeutic intervention. This plan may be designed to either improve skills such as reading, writing and spelling or to teach compensatory strategies which will help the individual to focus on the presented auditory information while ignoring the unwanted or extraneous stimuli. 

Based on the diagnostic test results as well as the age of the individual, therapy plans will be designed based on the specific needs of the person since no two individuals experience the exact same auditory processing defict in the  exact same area. For example, one individual may demonstrate difficulty in the areas of phonological awareness and auditory memory. These deficits will most likely affect reading, writing and spelling. Another individual may experience difficulty with auditory figure ground or tolerance, and will have difficulty extracting the important part of the verbal message (primary) from the unimportant or competing signal.  

What are the Signs of CAPD?

1. The child has difficulty paying attention, is easily distracted or appears to be daydreaming.

2. The child demonstrates difficulty concentrating in the presence of background noise.

3. The child has difficulty recalling or remembering information (verbal or auditory) previously heard or 
    originally understood.

4. The child has difficulty following the sequence of events.

5. The child may have a limited vocabulary and overall language difficulties.

6. The child may be having difficulty in school and may be performing below grade level, particularly, in 
     reading, writing, and spelling.

7. The child may be displaying behavioral problems at home or in school.

8. The child may have difficulty following one, two, or three step verbal instructions.

9. The child may have difficulty with auditory discrimination (for example, confuses “puppy” with “puffy”), 
    which can seriously impact on reading.

10. The child may have difficulty remembering simple routines from one day to the next.

Central Auditory Processing Disorder
Will a child grow out of it ?

Central Auditory Processing Disorder is most likely a disorder of the auditory nervous
system; a child will not simply grow out of the problem.

What members may be involved as part of the team to determine if CAPD exists?

  1. Audiologist -  evaluates hearing as well as central auditory processing skills related to auditory short 
     term memory, auditory figure ground, auditory sequencing, auditory discrimination and auditory closure.
  2. Speech-Language Pathologist - evaluates language abilities including reading and writing skills. 
  3. Neuropsychologist - evaluates intelligence as well as cognitive abilities.

  4. Physician - rules out medical problems that may effect learning.
  5. Teacher - assesses and monitors academic skills as well as behavior.
  6. Parent(s) - provide information regarding developmental milestones, auditory behavior in the home, and 
      medical as well as academic history.

What can be done for the child with Central Auditory Processing Disorder ?

The child will need to learn strategies that will help in coping with difficult situations.  Children with CAPD must be taught in a different way to compensate for poor auditory processing abilities. These compensatory strategies must be used on a consistent basis in the child's home, in the child's school and in all aspects of the child's life in order to promote learning and improved academic performance, as well as to improve communication in social situations, and to reduce frustration levels which the child may be exhibiting.

What You Should Do if a Central Auditory Processing Disorder is Suspected

If you suspect that your child is experiencing central auditory processing difficulties, call our Center for more information.

Our Center is staffed with New York State Licensed Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists who have specialized training and expertise in evaluating and treating children and adolescents with Central Auditory Processing and Language Based Learning Disorders.

For more information and to schedule an appointment call:

(516) 731-5868 - Local

(877) 761- HEAR - Toll Free


                    Listen HEAR Group
(516) 731-5868 Local
(877) 761-HEAR - Toll Free
What Causes a Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

Possible causes of CAPD are:

1. Hereditary or genetic based.

2. Maturational delay.

3. Neurologically based.

4. Secondary or related to auditory deprivation resulting from such things as chronic ear infections, 
    which may have occurred during the first few years of life.

A Division of iHear-Speech-Swallow-Help, Inc