What to do when your child is labelled as disruptive in class

60,000 Aussie school kids will struggle to hear in the classroom this year, and they’re often labeled disruptive or disinterested.  But for these kids, the actual culprit is a condition known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), where a person has difficulty hearing when there is lots of conflicting sound.

What is CAPD?

Also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), it’s an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that result in a breakdown in the hearing process.

In short, the brain cannot make sense of what the ears hear because the auditory signal is distorted in some way. As a result, one of the biggest problems experienced by individuals with CAPD is difficulty listening when there is a lot of background noise.

Spatial Processing Disorder (SPD) is a type of CAPD that leads to a difficulty understanding speech in noisy situations. Spatial processing is the ability to use the cues that tell us where sounds are coming from. This ability allows us to focus on one sound while ignoring sounds coming from other directions, and is one of the main skills we rely on when trying to listen in noise.

Testing for CAPD

There are many ways to assess and test for CAPD. Australian Hearing uses a technique called Listening in Spatialised Noise – Sentence test (LiSN-S).

This test was developed by the National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL), our research arm. It has been shown to diagnose a major cause of listening difficulty in noise.

What does a CAPD assessment involve?

 A series of central auditory processing tests can be used to assess CAPD. At Australian Hearing, we focus on identifying auditory deficits that are likely to lead to listening difficulties and poorer performance in the classroom. But tests at other centres may vary. Generally, tests and assessments involve measuring how well your child hears while background noise is playing.

Tests are generally tailored to suit the individual child so what is included in each assessment may differ slightly. If your child has difficulty in a certain area of auditory processing, your audiologist will then discuss management and auditory training options.

If you decide to proceed with any of these management or training options, they can arrange further appointments to implement these changes at your request.


Listening in Spatialised Noise- Sentences Test (LiSN-S) is an adaptive, virtual-reality test that measures speech perception ability in noisy environments. Importantly, it also measures the ability of people to use the spatial cues that normally help differentiate a target talker from distracting speech sounds. This test is a breakthrough in the acoustic assessment of children because it allows clinicians to measure how well a child uses the spatial information in sound to understand speech.

Dichotic Digits and Auditory Memory

This test may also be used to assess your child’s ability to process different information being presented to each ear at the same time. It involves having a voice being played to the child via headphones, giving them instructions. They will have two different numbers played in each ear and will ask the child to repeat the numbers they hear. This ability to integrate information is important for effective classroom listening.

Your child may also be assessed via two tests of auditory memory – a Number Memory Forward test (to assess short-term auditory memory); and a Number Memory Reversed test (for auditory working memory).

Other assessments

Auditory processing disorders can co-exist with a number of other disorders (for example, cognitive, language or attention disorders). Your audiologist may recommend other assessments depending on your child’s history and presenting difficulties. For example:

  • Assessment by a speech pathologist. A qualified speech pathologist assesses a child’s receptive and expressive language abilities. For more information go to Speech Pathology Australia.

  • Assessment by an education psychologist. A qualified psychologist tests a child’s cognitive skills and mental abilities. Australian Psychological Society.

These assessments can further identify your child’s strengths and help explain how their hearing loss is affecting their learning and communicative skills.

Managing CAPD

The management plan your audiologist will recommend depends on the degree of CAPD your child is diagnosed with. There are three main approaches to support children with CAPD:

  • Assistive listening devices, such as FM systems

  • Remediation of auditory abilities through specialised training, such as the Sound storm app

  • Teaching coping strategies – for example active body language (sitting up straight, eye-contact), identifying situations where your child has difficulty listening (while playing sport) or vocal rehearsal where your child repeats information out loud as they hear it so they can retain it more effectively.

Australian Hearing’s diagnostic, management and remedial service for CAPD is offered nationally. For more information on your nearest centre offering the CAPD service or for pricing details, contact us.