APD is typified as poor understanding of speech and non-speech sounds. However, in most cases a hearing test will show hearing ‘within the normal range’.
Children and adults who have APD find that it impacts on their everyday life. They can struggle when listening to speech – particularly in noise, and may misunderstand what was said. They may have attention difficulties or problems listening to complex instructions or quick speech. Some children and adults may struggle with language and literacy because of these issues.
Children and adults with APD will often complain of not being able to hear, being more tired than others after a day at school or work, or extended periods of listening. Individuals with APD may often seem not to be paying attention or listening. As a parent of a child with APD, you may find it hard to get your child’s attention.
APD is due to impaired processing of sound in the brain (rather than in the ear). Information is sent up and down through nerve pathways to the central auditory nervous system; as well as through other neural processing systems such as language, speech, memory, vision, attention etc. Therefore APD can be a component of other disorders like dyslexia and ADHD, by either contributing to them or being found alongside them.
The British Society Of Audiology describes below 3 types of APD:
- Developmental APD: This presents itself in childhood. Children have with normal hearing and no other known causes or risk factors other than a family history of developmental communication and related disorders. They may remain into adulthood.
- Acquired APD: Cases associated with ageing or a known medical or environmental event (e.g. brain damage, noise exposure, exposure to chemicals that damage the ear or brain)
- Secondary APD: Cases where APD occurs in the presence, or as a result of persistent hearing problems; this may be due to persistant glue ear, repeated infections or long term/permanent hearing loss.