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What is auditory processing disorder?

Auditory processing disorder is a condition in which kids have trouble managing information that they hear. There is nothing wrong with their hearing, but they miss a lot of what is said to them and around them. They have an especially hard time processing auditory information in loud or distracting environments. Auditory processing disorder can get in the way of a child’s ability to learn and interact with other people. 

Not all experts recognize auditory processing disorder as a formal disorder. The symptoms overlap with other diagnoses such as ADHD and learning and language disorders. Many kids with auditory processing disorder also have one of these other diagnoses. 

What are the symptoms of auditory processing disorder?

Signs that a child might have auditory processing disorder include: 

How is auditory processing disorder diagnosed?

Auditory processing disorder can only be diagnosed by a specialist called an audiologist. They can run tests that measure different aspects of the child’s auditory processing abilities. Normally children are not mature enough to take these tests until they are seven or eight years old.

How is auditory processing disorder treated?

The most common type of professional help for APD is speech-language therapy, which helps children build skills in distinguishing, remembering, and sequencing sounds. There is little research to support the effectiveness of speech-language therapy, but families and clinicians often say that it works well. and the brain may simply mature to learn these skills on its own. There are also computer programs that can help kids build skills. 

Another way to help kids with auditory processing disorder is through educational therapy. Educational therapy helps kids learn to use other skills to make up for their auditory challenges. They can learn to manage frustration and play to their strengths. 

This guide was last reviewed or updated on November 17, 2023.