APD- Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) & Autism

APD- Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

What is APD?

APD is the ability to understand spoken language which not only involves the ability of the ear to detect sounds, but also the ability of the brain to recognise, and then interpret, and then use the acoustic information within our environment.

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) formerly referred to as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is an abnormality in the brain’s ability to filter and process sounds and words.

Individuals with Auditory Processing Disorder have a neurological defect in the pathways from the auditory (hearing) nerve through the higher auditory pathways that lay within the brain.

This causes distortion and/or delay in auditory signal transmission, which results in inaccurate or incomplete coding of sound. Since these individuals struggle to process (or interpret) what they hear, it causes listening problems that often mimic a hearing loss.

Most people with Auditory Processing Disorder will usually pass a hearing test and often have normal intelligence.  However, since the brain receives sounds incorrectly, they may not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words (duh and guh for example), and they may have difficulty using those sounds for speech and language.

APD & Autism

Autism can be best described as having a social/communication problem. Processing auditory information is a critical component of social communication, and people who have ASP (Autism Spectrum Disorder) typically have problems processing this information.


Difficulty understanding conversation with background noise (i.e. restaurants)

Difficulty dividing attention (i.e. talking on phone while tuning out or listening to other sounds)

Difficulty understanding unfamiliar speakers

Difficulty following long conversations

Misinterpreting the intent of a person’s comments (i.e. sarcasm, tone of voice)

Feeling exhausted at the end of the day due to straining to follow conversations

Struggling to understand music lyrics or to hear differences between melodies or instrument types

One problem occurs when a person hears speech sounds but does not perceive the meaning of the sounds.

For example, if someone says the word ‘shoe,’ the person might hear the sound clearly, but doesn’t understand the meaning. Sometimes the lack of speech comprehension is interpreted by others as an unwillingness to comply, when in fact the person simply isn’t able to retrieve the meaning at that moment.

What’s the next step?

Formal diagnosis of APD is accomplished through the administration of a battery of challenging tests designed to stress the auditory system.

Auditory processing disorder evaluations are typically scheduled early in the morning since this is when most people tend to be able to focus best and give their best performance.

What areas will be assessed?

Auditory Processes

Binaural Integration – The ability to understand different messages presented to each ear simultaneously

Binaural Separation – The ability to selectively attend to and understand a message presented to one ear while ignoring a message presented to the opposite ear at the same time

Binaural Interaction/Fusion – The ability to utilize localization and subtle intensity and timing differences in signals arriving to each ear. This affects the ability to detect signals in noise from both ears working together at the level of the brainstem. For example, the listener may be asked to identify a word as it emerges from competing background noise or fuse different inputs together into one perception

Temporal Processing – This includes Temporal (timing) Aspects of Auditory Processing: such as the ability to detect the brief time interval between sequential speech sounds, integrate sequences of sounds into words, and recognize individual speech sounds when they quickly follow one another and Auditory Pattern Recognition: referring to the ability to determine similarities and differences in acoustic contours and sequence and label patterns of sounds. This yields useful information about the efficiency of interhemispheric transfer of auditory information.

Auditory Closure – The ability to fill in and recognise an auditory signal when some of the information is distorted or missing and recognise the whole message. This includes filtered speech (high pitched sounds have been deliberately removed causing the words to sound muffled) and time altered speech (presented at very rapid rate making it difficult to hear the rapid transitions between individual speech sounds).

Auditory Figure-Ground – The ability to understand auditory messages in the presence of background noise or competing speech

Spatial Processing – The functioning of the mechanisms that use the spatial distribution of sound sources to suppress unwanted sound. This ability allows us to focus on one sound while ignoring sounds coming from other directions.

Functional Auditory Processing Skills

Auditory Attention – The ability to determine the target and selectively attend to auditory information for an appropriate length of time

Auditory Discrimination – The ability to distinguish between sounds to accurately identify sounds or words presented orally (such as /b/ and /d/ or the words “ball” vs. “doll.”)

Auditory Short Term Memory involves retaining what was just heard to immediately recall details. Auditory Sequential Memory is the ability to recall sequential auditory stimuli in the exact order they were presented. Auditory Working Memory involves the ability to recall, manipulate, and use auditory information just presented.

Phonological Awareness – The explicit knowledge of the sound segments (phonemes) that comprise words and sound/symbol (phoneme/grapheme) correspondence. This may include: Sound Analysis – the ability to correctly discern the component sounds of words; Sound Blending/Phonemic Synthesis – the ability to combine sounds accurately to blend them into syllables and words; and Sound Segmenting – the ability to hear and separate the individual sounds that have been combined to create syllables and words.

Here’s an interview with someone who explains what its like to live with APD

Centres to get tested at;

















Carry on the Conversation

How do you cope with having APD and Autism?

Let me know in the comments below.

As always, I can also be found on Twitter: @AutisticNick9 and at my email autisticnick9@gmail.com

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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.

Posted in APD

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