Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder In Children
Auditory processing disorder (APD) can occur when the inner ear is damaged, causing the electrical signals that carry sound from your ear to your brain to become distorted. This distortion makes it difficult for sufferers to discriminate between certain sounds, such as 'ch' and 'sh', and they often fail to identify the exact sounds that were heard.
The condition, which can be congenital or acquired, affects 7% of children and can impact academic performance and speech and language development. The cause of APD is not always clear, but ear infections and ear trauma are thought to be key factors in the development of the condition. Here's an overview of signs of APD to look out for in your child and how the condition is diagnosed and managed:
Signs Of APD In Children
Look out for the following signs of APD in your child:
- Doesn't meet language milestones
- Becomes distressed by sudden loud noises
- Cannot follow instructions or hear accurately in loud environments
- Doesn't understand age-appropriate riddles or jokes
- Cannot identify where a sound is coming from if they cannot see the source
Diagnosing APD In Children
If you suspect your child has APD, take them to see an audiologist. The condition is diagnosed using a combination of questionnaires and hearing tests. The questionnaires help the audiologist gain a firm understanding of the behaviours your child is displaying, while the hearing tests allow them to rule out other causes of hearing damage, such as a blocked Eustachian tube or perforation of the eardrum.
Managing APD In Children
APD cannot be cured, but there are a number of ways it can be managed to minimise the impact on your child's life. Young children may be referred to a speech and language therapist to help with pronunciation of words they are mishearing, while older children can benefit from the use of written instructions and visual aids, such as wall charts. You can support your child and improve their chances of hearing clearly by removing background noise whenever possible. So, keep the TV off when it's not being watched and avoid giving instructions to your child when there's music on or the washing machine is spinning noisily. Speaking slowly and clearly while facing your child can also help them hear you clearly.
APD can leave children feeling isolated, but with the right support, they can adapt and keep up with their peers. If your child is displaying any of the listed signs of APD, book them an appointment with an audiologist