Auditory processing disorder, also called APD, is a type of hearing loss caused by something affecting the part of the brain that processes how you hear. Ear damage causes other types of hearing loss.

APD is also sometimes called central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). It can happen in anyone. But it most often happens in children and older adults.

Many conditions can affect how well a person understands what they hear, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism. But these conditions are different from auditory processing disorder, although they can appear with APD. APD also can happen with other types of hearing loss.

Auditory processing disorder has no cure. But treatments can help you hear better.


Symptoms of auditory processing disorder (APD) can be subtle. Symptoms can include having trouble with:

  • Telling where sound is coming from.
  • Understanding words that are spoken quickly or in a noisy room.
  • Paying attention.
  • Reading and spelling.
  • Following directions unless they are short and simple.
  • Learning a new language.
  • Singing or enjoying music.
  • Understanding and remembering spoken information.

If you have APD, you also might:

  • Take longer to reply to someone who is talking to you.
  • Often need others to repeat themselves.
  • Not understand sarcasm or jokes.

APD is often seen with attention, language and learning issues like those seen in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

When to see a doctor

If you have trouble hearing or understanding what you hear, talk to a health care professional.


The cause of auditory processing disorder (APD) is sometimes unknown. APD can be linked to many conditions. In older adults, conditions might include stroke and head trauma. In children, APD can be linked to issues at birth, such as low birth weight or early birth, or repeated ear infections.

In typical hearing, the brain's auditory center takes the sound waves sent from the ears and turns them into sounds you know. But with auditory processing disorder (APD), the auditory part of the brain can't do this.

Risk factors

Factors that increase your risk of auditory processing disorder (APD) include:

  • Aging.
  • Stroke.
  • Head trauma.
  • Lead poisoning.
  • Seizure disorders.
  • Issues linked to birth, such as an early birth, low birth weight or a pregnant person using alcohol, drugs or tobacco.
  • Repeated ear infections, especially at a young age.


Auditory processing disorder (APD) complications include:

  • Trouble understanding what people are saying.
  • Trouble taking part in activities.
  • Feeling isolated and lonely.
  • Trouble reading and writing, in children.
  • Trouble doing well in school.
  • Feeling depressed.

Sept. 30, 2023
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Auditory processing disorder (APD)