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Inarie Badenhorst

Specialist Audiologist

What are the different types of Auditory Processing Disorders?

Posted on 2022-02-03 10:03:00 in General

There are many different categories of Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). These include, Developmental APD, Acquired APD and Secondary APD. In this blog, we will explain these Auditory Processing Disorders and look at some problems that APD can cause.

What is Auditory Processing?

When we listen, we don’t only rely on our ears to detect sound, but also on our brain to use the acoustic clues in the environment, recognise and interpret these to make sense of the information our ears have received. This process is called ‘auditory processing’.

What happens in a hearing test?

When we perform a standard hearing test, we check whether the ears are detecting sounds and can often disregard significant listening difficulties due to a hearing test suggesting normal hearing levels.

What is an Auditory Processing Disorder?

Auditory processing disorder is a difficulty for the brain to turn acoustic sounds into usable information.  This often leads to a variety of difficulties and often almost mimics a hearing loss.  These difficulties affect patients of all ages.

What are the different categories of Auditory Processing Disorder?

There are three different categories of auditory processing disorder (APD):

Developmental APD

This type of APD presents as a listening difficulty but with normal hearing tests and no other known contributing causes or risk factors other than a family history of developmental communication and related disorders. Patients often continue to have the same types of difficulties from childhood into and throughout adulthood.

Acquired APD

These listening and processing difficulties are associated with a known medical or environmental cause (e.g.  brain lesions, trauma, illness, noise damage or general aging)

Secondary APD

This type of processing difficulty is associated with a hearing loss. This could be either a permanent hearing loss or a temporary or fluctuating hearing problem like glue ear or regular ear infections.


What are some common problems caused by Auditory Processing Difficulties?

Auditory processing difficulties include some or all the following common problems:

Difficulty understanding speech and conversation

This can occur in environments with background noise. Even sound sources as quiet as an air conditioning unit or an extractor fan can be very distracting

Difficulty following Instructions

Some people may experience difficulty multiple-step or complex instructions or directions. For example, when you’re asked (or you ask a child) to pass two or three ingredients from the fridge, you might only remember one or pass something that was not asked for.

Mishearing words

Another common problem faced by those with Auditory Processing Difficulties may be the mishearing words, and subsequently mislearning and misusing these words. A common example of this is when little children say ‘pascetti’ instead of ‘spaghetti’. Most children – as their processing skills develop – will hear the difference and correct themselves. Children with processing difficulties often continue to use these childlike versions of words into their early teens. As an adult, mishearing regularly is what often leads us to question our hearing and/or attention levels.

Requests for repetition

Another problem is frequent requests for repetition and/or rephrasing of information. These regular ‘pardon’s, ‘what’s or ‘huh’s are what makes us wonder whether we have (or our child has) a hearing loss.

Trouble hearing subtle differences

Some people may find difficulty in hearing the subtle differences between sounds in words. For example, this could be hearing the difference between ‘bat’ & ‘pat’ or ‘ship’ & ‘sheep’

Focus and attention

Some people with Auditory processing difficulties may find difficulties in maintaining focus & attention when listening to auditory information.

Problems with verbal information

Some people may experience problems understanding and remembering verbal information. This can often lead to misunderstandings and communication breakdowns.


What are the symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder?

Symptoms & difficulties will vary from person to person and although there is no specific ‘cure’ for many of these difficulties, there are a plethora of strategies which might help with listening, processing but mostly coping.


If you think you or someone you know is experiencing an Auditory Processing Disorder, please contact Chime. Read our Frequently Asked Questions to learn more or request some advice. You can also take a free online hearing test.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any further queries about APD.

What are the different types of Auditory Processing Disorders?