Is your child struggling to hear in noisy places?

A hearing loss isn’t the only reason why a child might have problems hearing.

Some children might pass a hearing test and show no medical signs of hearing loss, but still struggle to follow conversations in noisy places like the classroom or playground.   

This is due to a condition called Central Auditory Processing Disorder or CAPD. The issue is not in how a person hears, but how the brain makes sense of what the ears hear.

What is it?

CAPD occurs when the brain can’t make sense of what the ears hear because the auditory signal is distorted in some way. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that result in a breakdown in the hearing process.

The exact causes are unknown, but we estimate that CAPD affects about two to five per cent of school-aged children in Australia.

How can I tell if my child has CAPD?

There are different ways to recognise CAPD, depending on the child’s age, but some common signs include:

  • Your child is easily distracted or unusually bothered by loud noises
  • Your child’s behaviour and performance improves in quieter settings
  • Your child often needs to have instructions repeated, especially in loud places
  • Your child gets tired from trying to understand what people are saying and just gives up and stops listening
  • Your child acts out to divert attention from their inability to hear and process speech in the classroom

Can CAPD be treated?

Children with CAPD can go on to develop good communication skills with the help of remediation programs, listening devices and some simple coping strategies.

  • Listening devices – Children can wear a wireless microphone system in the classroom to reduce background noise and give priority to a teacher’s voice.
  • Coping strategies – Parents can help their child cope with CAPD by:
    • Reducing background noise whenever possible
    • Using simple, expressive sentences
    • Ensuring your child is looking at you when you’re speaking
    • Asking your child to repeat the directions back to you
    • Speaking to your child’s teacher about CAPD and how it may affect your child’s learning.
    • Teachers can help by changing seating plans so your child sits in the front row or by providing your child a quiet place to study

Next steps

  • If you think your child has CAPD, it’s best to book an appointment with a hearing specialist.
  • Our Hearing Australia centres offer a CAPD assessment and management service, where an audiologist will run a series of tests to rule out hearing loss and assess a range of auditory processing skills.
  • If your child is diagnosed with CAPD, our audiologist can offer ongoing support tailored to your child’s individual diagnosis. This includes remediation, technology and other coping strategies.
  • This service is provided for a fee and is available to children six years old and older, and who don’t have a hearing loss. For children under six years old, we recommend speaking to a hearing audiologist who will be able to guide you on to the next step.

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