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Learning About Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)

What is CAPD?

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is a condition in which the ears and the brain do not work well together. People with CAPD can hear, but the brain has trouble processing the sounds. They have trouble:

  • Telling the difference among similar sounds in words.
  • Making sense of what is said to them.
  • Blocking out background noise.
  • Knowing where a sound is coming from.

It's important to know that CAPD is not an intellectual disability. It also isn't autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or simply "bad" behaviour. With treatment, people with CAPD can learn to cope with it. They can lead healthy, productive lives.

What causes it?

Nobody knows exactly what causes CAPD. Some children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and ADHD also have CAPD. But ASD and ADHD do not cause it.

What are the symptoms?

Parents and teachers often first notice the symptoms of CAPD in school. Symptoms include:

  • Having trouble understanding discussions in a noisy classroom.
  • Struggling with spelling and reading aloud.
  • Asking often for parents and teachers to repeat what they've said.

How is it diagnosed?

Some symptoms of CAPD appear in other developmental problems too, such as ADHD, a learning disorder, or autism. The audiologist or another provider will make sure that the symptoms are not being caused by one of these and that CAPD is the right diagnosis. An audiologist is a health care professional who measures hearing loss. He or she will:

  • Test for any actual loss of hearing.
  • Test your child to see how well he or she can tell sounds apart.
  • Ask you and your child's teachers about your child's listening behaviour.

Testing usually starts when the child is at least 7 or 8 years old. The audiologist takes into account your child's age, language development, and cultural background when doing the tests.

How is CAPD treated?

Treatment is planned specially for your child. It may include:

  • Training in listening skills.
  • Having your child wear a device that fits in the ear. It makes speech louder while reducing background noise.
  • Working with a speech or language therapist.

Your child's hearing develops as he or she grows older. Continuing to develop skills over time can help your child cope with CAPD.

Your child may also get help from his or her school. Ask about programs that identify your child's needs and set goals for learning.

What else should you know about CAPD?

Your child isn't to blame for his or her problems with listening.

You can do a lot to help your child and reinforce the skills he or she learns from the speech therapist. You can:

  • Reduce background noise whenever you can.
  • Teach your child to watch the person who is speaking.
  • Help your child learn organizational skills.

Your child's teacher can help by placing your child at the front of the classroom. This helps your child ignore distractions and focus on the teacher's speaking.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines he or she takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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