Children with APD may exhibit a variety of listening and related complaints. For example, they may have difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, following directions, and discriminating (or telling the difference between) similar-sounding speech sounds. Sometimes they may behave as if a hearing loss is present, often asking for repetition or clarification.
In school, children with APD may have difficulty with spelling, reading, and understanding information presented verbally in the classroom. Often, their performance in classes that don’t rely heavily on listening is much better, and they typically are able to complete a task independently once they know what is expected of them. However, it is critical to understand that these same types of symptoms may be apparent in children who do not exhibit APD. Therefore, we should always keep in mind that not all language and learning problems are due to APD, and all cases of APD do not lead to language and learning problems. APD cannot be diagnosed from a symptoms checklist. No matter how many symptoms of APD a child may have, only careful and accurate diagnostics can determine the underlying cause.
To diagnose APD, the audiologist will administer a series of tests in a sound-treated room. These tests require listeners to identify a variety of signals and respond to them via repetition, pushing a button, or some other way. Other tests that measure the auditory system’s physiologic responses to sound may also be administered. Most of the APD tests require that a child be at least 7 or 8 years of age. This is due to the variability in brain function being so marked in younger children that test interpretation may not be possible.
Once a diagnosis of APD is made, the nature of the disorder is determined. There are many types of auditory processing deficits – and because each child is an individual – APD may manifest itself in a variety of ways. Therefore, it is necessary to determine the type of auditory deficit a child exhibits so that individualized management and treatment activities may be recommended that address specific areas of difficulty.