Have you ever had difficulty paying attention and understanding words because you hear them differently? This happens to people who have auditory processing disorder, or APD for short.
Also referred to as central auditory processing disorder, APD isn’t a hearing or learning disorder, but it involves the mind being unable to process sounds in a typical way. Auditory Processing Disorder Awareness Day, every year on April 4, addresses the issues of living with APD.
What is APD?
Auditory processing disorder affects how the central nervous system interprets information involving words. As a result, people with APD have difficulty understanding sound differences in verbal speech. Basically, APD is like dyslexia for people’s hearing.
People of all ages can have auditory processing disorder. It usually begins in childhood, though some people develop it in later years. Between 2% and 7% of children have APD. In addition, like ear infections, boys are more likely to have APD than girls.
APD can interfere with learning, so people (including children) who have it often need help at school. It may also be connected to dyslexia, ADHD, and autism.
People with APD often have trouble following conversations, knowing where sounds come from, remembering instructions that are spoken (especially if there are many steps), listening to music, and understanding what people say in loud places or if many people are talking.
This is because auditory processing disorder can have an effect on people’s speech and their ability to read, write, and spell words. No one knows precisely what causes APD, but it may be connected to ailments like chronic ear infections, premature birth or low birth weight, head injuries, or it can be hereditary.
Diagnosing and Managing APD
Your doctor can test your hearing to see if APD is caused by hearing loss, but only an audiologist can diagnose it. Children need to be tested for APD when they’re at least 7 years-old.
There are many ways to manage auditory processing disorder, but there is no cure. Classroom support, skills like memory and problem solving, and speech therapy can help, as well as changes at home like covering hard floors with rugs to neutralize echoes and setting limits on noisy electronics like the TV and radio.
One famous person with APD is poet Amanda Gorman. As a child, she was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment. But that did not stop her from writing and reciting her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration, inspiring many.
Unfortunately, it seems rare that APD is taken seriously. A good friend of mine who is an actress and disability advocate has APD and has expressed frustration about the lack of resources and attention. There are also few characters with APD in modern media, which inspires me to raise APD awareness in my daily life and storytelling. In my view, auditory processing disorder is a condition that deserves more attention.