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Recognizing and Treating Auditory Processing Disorders in Adults

Finding your way around town, recalling your grocery list that you forgot at home, and reporting the details of a car accident that you’ve witnessed. What do these events have in common? You must utilize your working memory for all of them. Working memory is a system for short-term storing and managing the information in order to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. It’s also an important component to central auditory processing, which is how our central nervous system utilizes auditory information.

There are adults (and children) who have significant difficulty with such tasks as described above. They may have auditory processing difficulties or disorders, including those who have been formally diagnosed by an audiologist with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). CAPD is defined by American Speech Hearing Association (ASHA) as difficulties in the processing of auditory information in the central nervous system (CNS) as demonstrated by poor performance in one or more of the following skills: sound localization and lateralization; auditory discrimination; auditory pattern recognition; temporal aspects of audition, including temporal integration, temporal discrimination (e.g., temporal gap detection), temporal ordering, and temporal masking; auditory performance in competing acoustic signals (including dichotic listening); and auditory performance with degraded acoustic signals.

People who have auditory processing disorders typically have difficulty with following multi-step directions to complete tasks on the job, recalling names of people met at a cocktail party, discriminating subtle sound differences between two words (e.g. meditation and medication), or even utilizing auditory reasoning skills to work through problems.

Although an audiologist evaluates and formally diagnoses the presence of an auditory processing disorder, a speech-language pathologist participates in the evaluation process by identifying which level(s) of auditory processing are effected and how (e.g. sound/word discrimination, number/word/sentence memory, auditory comprehension/reasoning, etc.). The SLP may then work with such adults to teach them compensatory strategies, such as those that improve their auditory memory (e.g. sub-vocalization, visualization, chunking, etc.). An SLP may also work with the client and his/her family or workplace to modify the environment in order to better support the client. Such support includes counseling everyone about auditory processing disorders, providing information in visual as well as auditory formats, and minimizing competing environmental noises, to name a few.

Please contact CSLOT if you or someone you know is suspected of having auditory processing difficulties. For more information or resources about auditory processing disorders, please visit:

Shirit Megiddo, M.S., CCC-SLP