Central Auditory Processing Disorder

What Is Central Auditory Processing Disorder?

Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), also commonly known as auditory processing disorder, is a neurological defect that alters the way the brain processes certain forms of auditory input — especially spoken language. CAPD hinders a person’s ability to understand the subtle differences between sounds in words, turning even clear, direct conversations into a fuzzy, muddled mess. Unintuitive as it may seem, people with CAPD can have excellent hearing, but because of a malfunction in the brain’s auditory-processing system, they exhibit a diminished capacity for understanding the words they hear.

As a relatively novel diagnosis, a universal definition for CAPD has yet to be nailed down, but researchers generally agree that those with CAPD will exhibit four key indicators:

  • The patient has trouble receiving, understanding, and retaining auditory information.
  • Despite difficulties with comprehension, hearing ability is adequate or better.
  • Ability to listen is impaired.
  • The problem is not a physical one, but is instead found to be neurological in nature.



Researchers have not yet established a single, definitive cause for central auditory processing disorder. In children, it has been associated with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, pervasive developmental disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, this link is not supported by significant evidence and may exist only because CAPD frequently shares symptoms with these conditions. Further confusing things, children who suffer from no mental or physical impairments are occasionally diagnosed with CAPD simply because they have difficulty learning to read or write.


CAPD can be difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms often mimic a number of unrelated learning disabilities and forms of hearing loss. No matter how many symptoms a patient may exhibit, a proper diagnosis of CAPD cannot be made without extensive diagnostic testing.

That said, central auditory processing disorder symptoms can include:

  • Difficulty understanding verbal instructions.
  • Confusion over figurative language and humor.
  • Poor spelling.
  • A tendency to avoid reading and writing.
  • Poor grasp of abstract concepts.
  • Trouble summarizing ideas.
  • Poor memory skills.
  • An inability to block out background noise.
  • Difficulty carrying out complicated tasks.


Treatment Options

Though there is no cure, central auditory processing disorder treatment seeks to maximize a patient’s listening and communication abilities. There are three common treatment options for dealing with CAPD:

  • Environmental modifications — An audiologist will carefully examine the patient’s common listening environments and offer suggestions on how to improve the patient’s listening abilities by changing position, altering the local acoustics, or reducing background noise.
  • Listening and memory-enhancement techniques — These techniques give patients the mental tools necessary to ignore background noise, focus more clearly, and retain more of what they hear.
  • Hearing devices — Auditory trainers are electronic devices that aid a patient’s focus by enhancing the voice of a speaker while reducing the level of distracting background noise. These are often seen in classrooms where a child suffering from CAPD needs assistance listening to the teacher.

The key to effective treatment of CAPD is working to correct the problem as soon as it has been diagnosed. If you or your child have been experiencing ongoing difficulty focusing, learning, or keeping up in conversations, call our office to schedule a CAPD test today. We offer comprehensive testing for CAPD, and if necessary, we can refer you to a Speech-Language pathologist who will craft a personalized treatment plan to fit your unique hearing care needs.

You don’t have to live in a world of distorted conversations and distracting background noise. We can help ensure that you never miss another important word.

Special Note: CAPD testing is for patients age 7 and older who are at a minimum first grade reading level.