Auditory Processing or ADHD?

In our last newsletter, we talked about the symptoms that can manifest in someone with attention challenges.  While we are not opposed to medicine, we don’t feel that it should be the first line of action.  To make sure that we are actually treating what is causing the attention difficulties, we generally evaluate five other areas that can cause attention difficulties separate from, or in addition to a biochemical reason.

One area we evaluate is Auditory Processing.  Auditory processing is different from hearing.  Basically, it is how you think about what you hear.

A central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) occurs when the auditory signal is received accurately by the ear, but becomes distorted, confused, or compromised in some way before it is received by the language area of the brain.

It’s Hard to Get the Message When You Have a Bad Connection

Perhaps the best way to understand a central auditory processing disorder in our “modern age” is to think about what it is like to be in an important conversation with a bad cell phone connection. You have to listen extremely hard, and any extra noise around (i.e. kids, traffic, etc.) becomes extremely irritating and hard to block out.

Because the signal is not clear, you miss part of what the speaker is saying and you find yourself saying, “What did you say?” and struggling to fill-in the gaps.

You’re not exactly sure what the speaker said, but you don’t want to sound stupid or uninterested, so you make what you think is an appropriate response.   Oops! That backfired. Now you have to explain about the bad connection and why you misinterpreted what they said and made an “off-the-wall” response.

You don’t quite understand the speaker, yet when you have a clear connection you really don’t have a comprehension problem.

It takes so much energy to keep up with this conversation, that you find your attention drifting. You feel distracted and frustrated, and doggone it, important or not, you just want to get off the phone.

Luckily for cell phone users, the way to a better connection is to hang-up and dial again. But for students with CAPD, this is life.

Common Symptoms of Central Auditory Processing Deficit

In more clinical terms, here are some symptoms that most literature on CAPD include:

• About 75% are male

• Normal hearing acuity

• Difficulty following oral directions

• Inconsistent response to auditory stimuli (the signal isn’t always confused, just sometimes.)

• Short attention span; fatigues easily during auditory tasks.

• Poor long and short term memory

• Difficulty with phonics, reading, or spelling; mild speech-language problems

• Says “Huh?” or “What?” or often asks for things to be repeated

• History of ear infections


There is a strong relationship between language, language development, auditory skills, and attention.  This can make it hard to identify individuals with auditory processing disorders because similar behaviors are exhibited among students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

It is widely accepted that both ADHD and CAPD may co-exist or occur independently.  It can be like the chicken-egg scenario.  Does someone have poor auditory skills because of ADHD, or does the auditory processing cause the ADHD?  If the attention difficulties are due to an auditory processing, medicine might mask the symptoms, but it is not going to treat the root cause of the problem.  This is why an evaluation is so important.

Only an audiologist can confirm the presence of a Central Auditory Processing Disorder.  However, there is pattern that occurs in LEC’s evaluation that can indicate if there is an auditory processing deficit.

At LEC, if we determine that an individual has an auditory processing deficit, we will often recommend sessions and a home based sound therapy program.  We call this Auditory Stimulation Training.

Auditory stimulation training has been effective in treating a variety of disorders, including auditory processing disorders, speech and language disorders, learning disabilities, autism and spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorders, and reading and spelling disorders.

Some of the changes that we see as a result of Auditory Stimulation Training are

• Improved sleep

• Better ability to follow directions

• Improved auditory comprehension

• Improved vocal quality

• Better organization

• Improved social interaction

• Increased balance and coordination

• Improved language

• Increased attention

• Improved communication

• Reduced sound sensitivity

• Increased frustration tolerance


We have found Auditory Stimulation Training and sound therapy to be a tremendous tool in aiding in the development of attention, communication, and learning with individuals of all ages with a variety of learning challenges. We are seeing dramatic changes occur in the lives of children, teens, and adults.