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Is there even such a thing as central auditory processing disorder?

Tired of getting different answers to your questions about central auditory processing disorder? Even experts can’t agree on some of the details, so Gemm Learning decided to investigate.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association‘s Working Group on Auditory Processing Disorders recently published a positioning paper that clears up several controversies. Check out our summary in question-and-answer form below.

Debunking the CAPD Controversy

Q: What’s the difference between central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) and auditory processing disorder (APD)?

A: Audiologists used the term central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) because the central nervous system (auditory part) was involved in the disorder. However, the two terms are synonymous.


Q: What is the involvement of the central nervous system in CAPD?

A:  Any sounds we hear are processed through the central nervous system. Sound has to be localized and lateralized. Different sounds must be distinguished from each other. For example, your nervous system decides if a bird is a woodpecker or a crow. Similarly, your nervous system decides if a sound is a dog barking or a bird call. Your nervous system also has to process the timing of sounds, and decide what to listen to if there’s more than one simultaneous sound. This enables you to hear what your mother says to you at the restaurant dinner table even when there’s loud background noise. CAPD is thus seen in those who have difficulties in any of these areas.


Q: Is CAPD related to other learning disorders?

A: CAPD might be associated with other learning disorders – such as those that involve higher order language, communication and learning – but it does not emanate from them. If anything CAPD causes difficulty with language processing which causes difficulties with language, reading and learning.


Q: Another CAPD controversy occurs over when to make a diagnosis of CAPD or if there is indeed even a separate diagnosis of CAPD to be made. Some experts say that the diagnosis can only be made when the deficit is only in the auditory system. What’s the problem with this?

A: The real problem is that the brain is so complex. There are few parts of the brain that deal with only one of the senses, according to neuroscience experts. Multiple senses are incorporated into each area of the brain and its processing. It’s as if the human brain is like a sound track in a movie (only greater); there might be a background track for human voices and a foreground track for instrumental music and environmental sounds. All the tracks course through the different parts of the brain, affecting just about every area.


Q: Is CAPD related to criminal behavior or psychological disturbance?

A: There is no evidence that CAPD causes sociopathy, criminal behavior, depression or juvenile delinquency. However, the learning delays associated with CAPD can lead to a lower sense of self-worth and a life track that leads to crime.


Q: Why does CAPD affect different people differently?

A: Everyone’s brain develops uniquely, meaning that the way their brains organize themselves varies. People develop higher levels of skills in attention, memory and cognitive skills at different times, allowing CAPD to affect people according to their unique brain development.