Keeping up in the classroom 

Hearing Health with Grant Collins | Principal Audiologist at Clarity Hearing Solutions

Is your child keeping up in the classroom? If not your child have a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)? It’s one of the most common classroom hearing pathologies. 

Common signs of a potential Central Auditory Processing Disorder in children includes:

  • difficulties following instructions
  • poor listening ability in noisy places
  • difficulty with learning at school, and
  • being distracted or easily fatigued at school.

Central auditory processing refers to the efficiency and effectiveness with which our brains and auditory areas decode and use the information we hear. It’s essentially how well the ear talks to the brain and how well the brain can understand what it’s being told.

When our brain and auditory system works normally we can pick out the important parts of the sounds we hear, filter out any noise, and fill in any gaps to make sense of what we have just heard. This complex process uses a wide range of skills to help us make sense of the sounds we hear. Skills like locating the buzz of our alarm clock in the morning, focusing on a conversation in a busy café, and clearly understanding a teacher in a noisy classroom.

When something goes wrong in our brain and auditory system, the ability for us to make sense of the sounds can become impaired, even though we can still ‘hear’ the sounds. A disorder of the brain’s auditory system most commonly results in difficulty understanding speech in the presence of noise, and could be the result of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). 

It’s often difficult to identify the causes of CAPD. Everyone’s brain auditory system organisation is different which means CAPD can affect everyone differently. Conditions, like chronic ear infections in children’s early years, could also mean they are at a greater risk of developing a CAPD.

Children with CAPD are more likely to have behavioural, emotional, and social difficulties. Problems communicating and learning difficulties can impact the development of self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. While these signs may be noticed early on, it isn’t until children are 7 years of age that we can accurately diagnose a potential CAPD. 

The first step in testing for an auditory processing disorder is to conduct a hearing test. This is to establish whether the presence of a hearing loss may be a contributing factor. After determining the child’s hearing thresholds, we test more complex auditory processing skills. For children, we offer a screening test of your child’s spatial hearing abilities that mimic a classroom situation. Once we have the result of this test we can then investigate your child’s auditory processing abilities and identify any potential presence of CAPD. 

While there is no single ‘cure’ for CAPD, there are several remediation strategies for children which can be discussed with your audiologist. These may include:

  • listening strategies for the classroom
  • active communication techniques for daily life
  • listening exercises or computer software programs to improve auditory processing skills; and
  • assistive listening devices such as Bluetooth microphones.

Early identification and remediation of CAPD may potentially lessen the likelihood that any secondary problems may emerge. 

If you are concerned, schedule a consultation with your audiologist now to rule out or identify the nature of the problems.

For more on CAPD check out Clarity’s website at http://clarityhearingsolutions.com.au/central-auditory-processing/

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