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

Many Australian school kids will struggle to hear in the classroom this year, and they’re often labelled 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?

This is an umbrella term used for a variety of conditions that result from a breakdown in the hearing process. It happens when the brain finds it difficult to understand what the ear hears because the signal is distorted in some way.

As a result, one of the biggest problems experienced by people with CAPD is they find it hard to listen when there is a lot of background noise.

Testing for CAPD

There are many ways to assess and test for CAPD. Hearing Australia 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.
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What does a CAPD assessment involve?

While there are a number of tests that can be used, at Hearing Australia, we focus on ones that identify issues that may lead to listening difficulties and poorer performance in the classroom. This includes how well your child hears in background noise.

As we tailor our tests to suit your child’s individual needs, what is included in each assessment may differ slightly between children.

If we find that your child has a difficulty in an area, we’ll first discuss management and auditory training options with you. Then, if you decide to proceed with any of these management or training options, we‘ll arrange further appointments to put these options into practice.

Listening in Spatialized Noise – Sentence (LiSN-S) Test

This test measures how well your child uses the spatial information in sound to understand speech in noisy environments, such as the classroom.

Memory Tests - Number Memory Forward and Reversed

We may test how well your child can remember simple lists of numbers that they have just heard (auditory short-term memory). Another test is to see how well your child can rearrange short lists of numbers in their head (auditory working memory). Difficulties in these areas can affect a child’s performance in the classroom and lead to flow on effects, such as fatigue.

Dichotic Digits difference Test (DDdT)

We may use this test to find out how well your child can process different information coming to each ear at the same time. This is important for effective classroom listening.

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

A child with CAPD can be supported through three different approaches:

  • Environmental changes to improve listening skills
  • Learning coping strategies to enhance abilities
  • Auditory training to correct the issue

If your child is assessed as having listening difficulty, your audiologist will tailor the most appropriate options based on your child’s results. Options include:

  • At-home, computer/app-based auditory training
  • Assistive listening devices, such as remote microphone technology
  • Advice on specific environmental changes and coping strategies


Hearing Australia'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.

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