Adult Auditory Processing Disorders — Causes and Treatment

July 5, 2024

Auditory processing disorders (APD) is a condition that impacts the way that an individual understands and interprets auditory signals. Individuals that suffer from APD may experience no obvious symptoms of hearing loss but may have trouble understanding different sounds.

Understanding the causes and treatment options available for APD is the first step towards receiving treatment that can help to manage the condition.

What is auditory processing disorder (APD)?

Auditory processing disorders (APD) is a disorder that causes a disruption in the way that an individual processes and understands the sounds that they hear. APD is not a type of hearing loss, rather, it is a condition sometimes referred to as a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) that makes it difficult to process and interpret different sounds that are received by the ears.

Individuals with APD experience challenges in distinguishing between different, similar sounds, as well as understanding speech in noise environments. APD can have a significant detrimental impact on communication, learning, and the daily function of an individual.

What causes adult auditory processing disorders?

The causes of auditory processing disorders (APD) in adults aren’t always clear. In some cases, APD may be linked to major health conditions such as a stroke, head trauma, ear infections, loud noises (prolonged or sudden), as well as slow damage to the auditory pathways in the brain.

The physical manifestation of auditory processing disorders is an interruption between the auditory nerve and the brain when processing and interpreting signals.

In some cases, APD may be the result of genetic predispositions and development issues that have been present since earlier in life. Ongoing testing and assessments from audiologists and neurologists play an essential role in identifying and managing APD as early as possible.

Signs of adult auditory processing disorders

Adult auditory processing disorders can vary in how they present from one person to another. Some of the most common signs of adult auditory processing disorders can include:

  • Difficulty understanding conversation
  • Difficulty following complex or multi-step directions
  • Difficulty with reading, writing and spelling
  • Difficulty understanding where a noise is coming from of who is talking
  • Difficulty interpreting speech from different accents
  • Difficulty in noisy environments
  • Delayed processing of information compared to others
  • Difficulty separating background noises from conversations
  • Feeling exhausted or overwhelmed interpreting speech in social settings
  • Relying on lip reading and social signals to interpret conversations
  • Higher than normal volume on radio and television
  • Difficulty with phone calls and video calls
  • Difficulty understanding the lyrics in music
  • Difficulty with comprehension

Treatment for adult auditory processing disorders

Before looking at the different treatment options available for adult auditory processing disorders, it’s important to preface by saying that not all adults with auditory processing disorders require treatment. Adults with APD have different needs, so it’s important to consult with a hearing specialist for tailored advice and treatment plans. Some of the most common treatment options for adult auditory processing disorders, include:

  • Specialist hearing ads that are designed to improve hearing and isolate direct sound
  • Frequency modulated hearing aids that make it easier to hear in noisy environments
  • Speech and language therapy
  • Brain training to improve cognitive recognition and processing skills
  • Brain training computer programs that are designed to help with language processing
  • Auditory training to assist with hearing rehabilitation and hearing loss adjustment with an audiologist.
  • Training aids to assist with recognising and understanding sounds – these may be in the form of in-clinic or online computer programs.

Diagnosing auditory processing disorders in adults

APD is typically diagnosed by an audiologist. An audiologist will conduct tests to understand and diagnose the condition. Some of these tests will include speech recognition and noise tests that help to gauge the extent of the problem and how it manifests in the individual. Once an individual has been diagnosed with APD, they will receive recommendations and treatment options that can help to overcome the common symptoms of APD.

Posted in