Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a condition where your brain can’t understand and interpret auditory signals the way it should. People with APD can hear, but they may have trouble understanding certain sounds. There isn’t a cure for APD, but treatment helps people manage the condition.
Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder, is a hearing issue that makes it hard for you to understand what people are saying. The condition often starts in childhood, but adults may develop it from having certain diseases, getting a head injury or growing older.
People with APD have difficulty understanding speech even though they don’t have hearing issues. Many APD symptoms are similar to hearing loss symptoms. Although there’s no cure for ADP, audiologists have treatments that help people with APD manage hearing issues.
That’s hard to say. Research shows healthcare providers use different standards when they diagnose APD, which leads to a wide range of estimates. One recent study concluded that between 1 and 2 children in 1,000 have APD. Another study estimated between 23% and 76% of adults age 55 and older have APD.
No, but people with APD may have different areas of weakness. These four areas are:
Auditory processing disorder symptoms and signs vary, but typically include:
If you have auditory processing disorder, it means your brain is having trouble interpreting what your ears are hearing. To understand APD, it may help to understand the chain of events that lets you hear sounds, including words:
In APD, something keeps your brain from processing or interpreting the signals that your auditory nerve sent. When that happens, your brain misinterprets signals and you have trouble understanding what’s being said.
Auditory processing disorder happens for many different reasons. In general, experts link the condition to the following issues:
People with APD may have trouble learning, including learning how to read and write. They may also have trouble communicating with others. Learning and communication issues may cause people with APD to develop anxiety and depression.
In the beginning, many people may be involved in evaluating symptoms and signs of auditory processing disorder. For example, a psychologist may do tests to evaluate cognitive function and a speech-language pathologist may evaluate verbal and written language skills. However, audiologists make the actual diagnosis. Audiologists may use different listening tests to diagnose auditory processing disorder.
Treatment varies, but may involve one or all of the following:
Most issues that cause APD are issues you can’t control, like certain central nervous system disorders. This makes it difficult to prevent auditory processing disorder.
Healthcare providers can’t cure APD, but there are therapies that help people manage it.
Self-care with auditory processing disorder starts with understanding all the ways that APD may affect you. Certainly, APD affects your ability to understand what you hear. It may also affect your self-confidence and self-esteem. That said, taking steps to make it easier for you to understand what you hear can help you feel more confident.
If you have APD, you may want to ask the following questions:
Some people with auditory processing disorder also have ASD or ADHD, but having APD isn’t always a sign of either.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Auditory processing disorder (APD) is a hearing issue that affects how your brain processes sound and how you understand speech. If you have auditory processing disorder, you may struggle to make sense of what you hear. APD can’t be cured, but there are steps you can take to reduce APD’s impact on your daily life. Talk to an audiologist or healthcare provider if you’re having trouble understanding what people say.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/21/2023.
Learn more about our editorial process.