Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

  • Jul 23, 2023

Imagine you’re in a bustling coffee shop. The barista is calling out orders, the coffee grinder is whirring, and people are chatting around you. You’re trying to have a conversation with a friend, but despite your best efforts, you can’t seem to understand what they’re saying. Sounds familiar? This scenario might be a part of everyday life for adults with auditory processing disorder in adults (APD). APD is not simply about how well you hear sounds - it’s about how well your brain processes these sounds, especially speech. Let’s dive into the world of APD, its symptoms, how it’s diagnosed, and most importantly, how it can be managed.


Short Summary

  • Adults aged 55 and older can experience Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), which affects auditory processing abilities leading to difficulties in communication.
  • Common symptoms of APD include speech and language difficulties, difficulty with background noise, and challenges in following conversations.
  • Treatment options such as auditory training techniques, assistive listening devices, communication strategies, creating an optimal listening environment & building support networks are available for individuals living with APD.


Understanding Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults

couple, phone, earphones


At the heart of conversation and communication lies the process of listening. But what happens when our brain struggles to interpret what our ears hear? This is the reality for individuals with central auditory processing disorders, such as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and Central Auditory Processing Disorder. In APD, despite having normal hearing capabilities, individuals experience difficulty in comprehending spoken messages that are complex or presented in noisy conditions. This is due to the brain misinterpreting signals from the auditory nerve, a crucial part of our central auditory processing system.


APD is not a rare condition. In fact, it’s estimated that between 23% and 76% of adults aged 55 and older experience APD, affecting their auditory processing abilities. Living with APD can be challenging, with adults reporting that it feels like trying to listen to a cell phone with the signal cutting in and out. It can lead to difficulties at home and in the workplace due to the brain’s inability to effectively process auditory information.


Yet, despite these challenges, it’s important to note that APD is different from peripheral hearing loss, which can be treated with hearing aids or other interventions.


Common Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults

people, women, talking


APD, like an unwelcome guest, brings along some telltale signs. The most common apd symptoms are speech and language difficulties, struggles with background noise, and challenges in following conversations. These symptoms may seem familiar, like pieces of a puzzle you’ve been trying to solve.


Let’s take a closer look at each of these symptoms.


Speech and Language Difficulties

Picture this: you’re at a party, trying to follow a conversation, but the words seem to slip away as soon as you hear them. This is a common challenge for adults with APD, who may struggle to understand speech, particularly in noisy settings. These individuals may also find it difficult to follow extended conversations or split their attention between different auditory tasks.


For some, these speech and language difficulties may manifest as trouble processing complex sentences or comprehending spoken words, leading to poor reading comprehension. This can make daily tasks, such as following instructions at work or understanding a news broadcast, an uphill battle.


But remember, recognizing these challenges is the first step towards finding effective strategies to cope with them.


Struggles with Background Noise

Imagine trying to tune into a particular radio station while other stations keep interfering. That’s what dealing with background noise can feel like for adults with APD. It’s not that these individuals can’t hear; rather, they struggle to distinguish speech from the cacophony of sounds around them.


These struggles can manifest as various auditory processing disorder symptoms. For instance, individuals with auditory processing difficulties, also known as auditory perceptual deficits, may:


  • Find it difficult to comprehend conversations in boisterous settings
  • Struggle to listen in large gatherings
  • Face challenges in understanding multiple speakers at once


It’s like trying to follow a single thread in a complex tapestry - not impossible, but certainly challenging.


Challenges in Following Conversations

Part of the beauty of conversation is the ebb and flow of words, the dance of ideas from one person to another. However, for adults with APD, following this dance can be challenging. They may find it hard to understand speech in noisy surroundings, comprehend complex instructions, or even pick up a new language.


The speed of speech can also pose a challenge. If you’ve ever struggled to keep up with a fast-paced podcast or a lively debate, you might have a taste of what this feels like. For adults with APD, rapidly spoken speech can be difficult to comprehend. It’s like trying to keep up with a high-speed train when you’re on a bicycle - not an easy feat!


Understanding Sharp Ear Pain

Sharp ear pain can be caused by a multitude of factors, including infections, blockages, and inflammation, and can manifest as a sharp, dull, or throbbing sensation. The eustachian tube, a narrow tube located in the inner ear, maintains pressure equilibrium, and a blocked eustachian tube can lead to dizziness, hearing loss, or even sharp pain in the ear. It’s essential to gain an understanding of the origins of sharp ear pain to receive appropriate treatment and prevent ear pain in the future.


Understanding Pulsatile Tinnitus: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

blood, cells, red


Imagine lying in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, only to be kept awake by a rhythmic whooshing or thumping sound in sync with your heartbeat. For those suffering from pulsatile tinnitus, this is a frustrating reality. Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare but serious condition that can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. Understanding its symptoms, causes, and treatment options is essential in managing this condition and finding relief.


Pulsatile tinnitus is a unique form of tinnitus characterized by rhythmic noises that are in synchronization with the heartbeat. It often indicates an underlying vascular issue or abnormal blood flow near the ear. In this blog post, we will explore the various aspects of pulsatile tinnitus, including its definition, causes, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures.


The Central Auditory Nervous System and APD

Your brain is like an incredibly complex highway system, with information zipping along various routes to reach its intended destination. The central auditory nervous system, which includes the central auditory system, plays a crucial role in this process, particularly when it comes to APD. It’s responsible for processing and interpreting the auditory information that our ears pick up. Think of it as a translator, converting electrical impulses into sounds, then into words, and finally into meaningful sentences and ideas. These brain processes are essential for effective communication and understanding.


However, in individuals with APD, there might be a glitch in this translation process. These individuals may struggle with specific auditory tasks, making the task of comprehending spoken messages a challenging one.


Diagnosing Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults

doctor, online, medical


When it comes to diagnosing APD, it’s all about teamwork. A team of professionals, including psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and hearing care professionals, come together to unravel the complexities of APD. Each professional brings their expertise to the table, like pieces of a puzzle that come together to form a complete picture.


Audiologists, for instance, conduct a series of listening tests to assess an individual’s auditory processing abilities. Speech-language pathologists assess verbal and written language abilities, while psychologists evaluate cognitive functioning.


Through this collaborative approach, a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s strengths and challenges can be achieved, paving the way towards appropriate treatment strategies.


Treatment Options for Auditory Processing Disorder

While APD may pose various challenges, it’s crucial to remember that there are several treatment options available. These include auditory training techniques, assistive listening devices, and communication strategies, all aimed at enhancing listening and comprehension skills. Each of these treatment options is like a tool in a toolbox, ready to be used to navigate the world of APD.


Let’s delve deeper into these treatment strategies.


Auditory Training Techniques

In the quest to manage APD, auditory training techniques serve as valuable allies. Think of these techniques as workouts for your auditory processing skills, designed to make your auditory processing abilities stronger and more efficient.


These techniques can range from Speech Auditory Training (SAT) to computer-based training programs. They focus on specific auditory deficits and utilize various stimuli such as:


  • Syllables
  • Words
  • Phrases
  • Sentences
  • Connected discourse


Just like physical exercise can improve your body’s strength and resilience, auditory training techniques can enhance your ability to process and comprehend auditory information.


Assistive Listening Devices

In the world of APD, assistive listening devices are like personal translators, helping to decode the language of sound. These devices, such as FM systems or hearing aids, can enhance the ability of adults with APD to comprehend speech in challenging listening environments.


There’s a wide range of devices available, from personal listening devices (PLDs) and low-gain hearing aids to assistive listening devices (ALDs) that can be used with or without hearing aids. These devices are like a guiding hand, helping individuals with APD navigate the sometimes confusing world of sound.


Communication Strategies

Communication is a two-way street. While auditory training techniques and assistive listening devices work on improving an individual’s ability to understand speech, communication strategies focus on the other side of the coin - how information is delivered to individuals with APD. These strategies can be as simple as using visual cues or rephrasing sentences, enabling adults with APD to better understand and participate in conversations. It’s like learning a new dance - once you know the steps, you can move in harmony with your partner, making communication a much smoother process.


Auditory Processing Disorder and Coexisting Conditions

Having APD might sometimes feel like juggling several balls at once, especially when other conditions come into play. APD is often found to coexist with other disorders such as:


  • Speech/language disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Visual processing disorder


However, it’s crucial to remember that while APD can coexist with other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), it does not always indicate the presence of these disorders. Like a complex piece of music, each individual’s experience with APD is unique, with different notes and rhythms that come together to create a unique melody.


Coping Mechanisms and Self-Care for Adults with APD

woman, read, to sit


Living with APD can undoubtedly be challenging, but it’s important to remember that there are several coping mechanisms and self-care strategies that can help. These involve creating an optimal listening environment, building support networks, and focusing on mental health and wellness.


Like a compass guiding you through a dense forest, these strategies can help navigate the journey of living with APD.


Creating an Optimal Listening Environment

Creating an optimal listening environment is a bit like designing a sound studio. The aim is to reduce auditory distractions and enhance the clarity of speech. This can be achieved by:


  • Employing assistive technology
  • Utilizing visual or hands-on learning methods
  • Making lists
  • Avoiding noisy environments.


For instance, using noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce background noise, while visual aids can help to understand speech more effectively. It’s like setting the stage for a play, ensuring that everything is in place for the performance - in this case, effective communication.


Building Support Networks

team spirit, teamwork, community


As the old saying goes, “no man is an island”. This is especially true for individuals living with APD. Building support networks can be a lifeline, providing emotional support, shared experiences, and practical advice.


These networks can be built by joining existing support groups or organizations for APD, attending events or meetings, and connecting with others who have APD. It’s like weaving a safety net - the more connections you make, the stronger the net becomes.


Focusing on Mental Health and Wellness

Living with APD can sometimes lead to anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation. That’s why focusing on mental health and wellness is so important. It’s about taking care of your mind, just as you would your body.


This can involve activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. It’s also important to seek professional help if necessary. After all, mental health is not a destination, but a journey, and it’s okay to ask for directions along the way.



Navigating the world of auditory processing disorder (APD) may seem daunting at first, but remember, knowledge is power. By understanding APD, recognizing its symptoms, learning about the central auditory nervous system’s role, and exploring diagnostic procedures, we can arm ourselves with the tools necessary to tackle APD head-on. With an array of treatment options, from auditory training techniques and assistive listening devices to communication strategies, managing APD is entirely possible. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. By creating optimal listening environments, building support networks, and focusing on mental health and wellness, we can turn the challenges of APD into opportunities for growth and resilience.


Frequently Asked Questions


What are the 5 types of auditory processing disorder?

Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition involving difficulty processing sound, and affects individuals of all ages. Five distinct types of the disorder have been identified, including hypersensitivity, decoding, integration, prosodic, and organizational deficits.


Is there medication for auditory processing disorder in adults?

Unfortunately, there is no medication for adults with auditory processing disorder, as it is a neurological problem.


What are the coping skills for APD?

People with APD need to develop their own personal coping strategies such as lip-reading and establishing familiar routines. Through this, individuals can gain confidence in themselves and navigate everyday life.


What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, is a hearing difficulty where individuals struggle to comprehend spoken messages in complex or noisy environments, despite having normal hearing.


APD can affect people of all ages, but is most commonly diagnosed in children. It can cause difficulty in understanding speech, following directions, and learning in the classroom. Symptoms can include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, difficulty following multi-step directions, and difficulty with reading comprehension.


What are some common symptoms of APD?

Common symptoms of APD include speech and language difficulties, difficulty with background noise, and difficulty understanding conversations.