Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD)

Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD)

What is a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)?

Central Auditory Processing Disorders may be defined, in a basic way, as a breakdown that occurs in messages going from the ear to the brain resulting in a message that is unclear or cannot be separated from background noise.

 What are common symptoms of CAPD?

Common symptoms are similar to the symptoms of hearing loss and include a) frequently saying “huh” or “what,” b) difficulty following multi-step directions, c) misinterpreting verbal information, and d) reduced speech understanding in noisy settings. Children with CAPD often perform better with hands-on activities and when visual cues are provided.

 Is your child a candidate for this testing?

According the guidelines provided by the American Academy of Audiology and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, a CAPD, by definition, should not be diagnosed in a person if a more global impairment explains the presenting symptoms. For example, children who have the following are typically not candidates for this testing because their difficulties can be attributed to another factor:

  1. reduced intellectual skills
  2. significant, unmanaged attention difficulties
  3. significant language deficits
  4. hearing loss 


In view of this information, prior to being scheduled for CAPD testing, someone in the department will review the paperwork that you have submitted about your child to ensure that he/she meets the above criteria. In most cases, this requires that you submit the most recently administered speech and language and psychological testing on your child. It also means that a comprehensive hearing evaluation has to be done prior to performing CAPD testing.

What CAPD tests are performed and why?

The tests that are administered for the CAPD assessment challenge the auditory system so that those parts of the central nervous system that are involved in the processing of auditory information have to participate. These tests are typically more complicated than those given during a hearing test and may include tests that:

  1. present two different pieces of information to each ear at the same time
  2. require the child to attend to information in one ear while simultaneously ignoring information presented to the other ear
  3. require the child to repeat back words that are presented in a background of noise
  4. require the child to blend a sequence of sounds together to form words

How can this testing help your child?

First, if CAPD testing is done and your child performs normally, you have ruled this out as an underlying cause of the presenting difficulties and can now focus your attention on other possible causes. Second, if your child is found to have a CAPD, the audiologist will prepare a written report that includes recommendations for how your child can be supported in the classroom. This may include, for example, a change in where they are seated, a different focus of their speech and language therapy, or communication repair strategies for your child to use.

Can adults be tested for CAPD?

Yes. Sometime adults seek out hearing testing because they are experiencing difficulties in noisy settings or when more than one piece of information is presented at the same time. When their hearing comes out within normal limits, they may seek to have CAPD testing done. If they do have the disorder, we can make recommendations to help them in their work and social settings.

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