An air of mystery surrounds auditory processing disorder (APD)—also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD)—given the difficulties practitioners may experience in diagnosis. But experts agree that a hearing care professional must make the diagnosis. For audiologists, (C)APD represents an opportunity to help more patients and grow your practice.
Many graduate-level curricula devote little time to the study of (C)APD. Audiologists who wish to add this component to their skillsets must seek continuing education. To determine whether (C)APD testing is a fit for your practice, let’s answer five frequently asked questions:
What Is (C)APD?
(C)APD is not a hearing disorder. It is an information-processing disorder. (C)APD sufferers may exhibit normal inner ear structures and excellent hearing. But they may struggle to properly convert auditory signals to their intended words or sounds. Symptoms could include:
- Poor listening skills and academic performance;
- Difficulty carrying out multi-step directions;
- Difficulty processing verbal statements;
- Superior response to rephrased (rather than repeated) statements;
- Confusion among words that rhyme or are otherwise similar;
- Difficulty detecting gaps among words,
- Oversensitivity to some sounds, including sudden, loud noises.
(C)APD can be caused by neurodevelopmental delays. It can also be caused by head trauma or ear infection. Further, lead poisoning is also believed to be a possible cause.
Beyond the identified causes and symptoms, much about (C)APD remains unknown. The condition was first identified in the 1950s. Research began in earnest in the late ’70s. Much of the current investigation into (C)APD is focused on refining testing and treatment.
How Is (C)APD diagnosed?
(C)APD must be diagnosed by a qualified audiologist. Testing and diagnosis among children far outweigh adults. Many patients are referred by parents, educators, or school healthcare professionals. Children cannot be properly tested until age 7, when their language and auditory processes have likely developed.
Audiologists who test for (C)APD can expect to find patients (and parents) at the end of a long path. (C)APD is not widely understood outside audiology—or within it, for that matter. (C)APD can be easily misdiagnosed as a learning or behavioral disorder.
Further complicating the issue is the fact that (C)APD has a high rate of co-occurrence with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, there is no known indication that AD(H)D causes (C)APD.
How Does One Test for (C)APD?
Audiologists rely on four tests to positively identify (C)APD sufferers:
- SCAN-A and SCAN-3
- Random Gap Detection Test (RGDT)
- Gaps-in-Noise (GIN) test
- Pitch Patterns Sequence Test (PPS)
How Is (C)APD Treated?
Treatment for diagnosed (C)APD sufferers must be customized to suit the individual. Treatment requires cooperation among a multidisciplinary team. For children, that group could include their teacher, a psychologist, and a speech-language pathologist. Also, the patient’s audiologist must remain available for further testing.
Treated (C)APD sufferers may enjoy improvement or even complete amelioration. Others may not. In the near term, changes to the patient’s educational or work environment can be helpful. Examples could include producing visual materials to accompany oral presentations, reseating, or providing a private workspace. Rephrasing statements may be more effective than simply repeating them.
What if Patients or Parents Can’t Afford (C)APD Testing?
Hearing care can be prohibitively expensive. The unexpected cost of primary and ongoing testing for (C)APD could prevent or delay parents and patients from seeking care.
Partnering with CareCredit creates a built-in financing option for your practice. CareCredit is a health and wellness credit card patients and parents can use to pay for care. It can help ensure conditions such as (C)APD are not left undiagnosed or untreated.
Ongoing research promises a future in which (C)APD is better understood and more frequently diagnosed. Until then, audiologists can play an active role in improving the lives of afflicted children and adults. Adding (C)APD testing to your practice could pay dividends for your community as well as your bottom line.