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auditory processing disorder in adults

Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults: Symptoms, testing & treatment

October 26, 2022

Auditory processing disorder in adults isn’t often discussed – usually the focus is on students and children with auditory processing disorder (APD).

It’s estimated that 2-5% of school aged children have auditory processing disorder [1]. For older adults, it’s far higher – one study estimated 23-76% of older adults live with APD [2]. 

However, many young and middle aged adults exhibit auditory processing disorder symptoms too [1]. For an adult, APD can manifest itself in both life and work – such as having difficulty with telephone conversations, following complex directions, or struggling to learn a new language.

But what is the difference between having a hearing problem and having APD?

Difference between hearing problems and auditory processing disorder

Auditory processing is about perceiving sounds correctly.

Auditory processing difficulty isn’t the same as hearing loss, and it’s not related to intelligence. An individual with auditory processing disorder may very well have excellent hearing, and may very well have a high IQ.

Auditory processing disorder is when a person cannot map sounds they hear to sounds they know.

You know what the ‘p’ letter sounds like. However, due to processing issues in your brain, when you hear someone say a ‘p’ sound what you hear is a ‘b’ sound.

A person with APD can have excellent hearing (their ears are sending the sound to their brain) but poor auditory processing (their brain doesn’t match up the sounds properly).

Auditory Processing Disorder brain

What causes Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults?

There’s a number of factors that could be the cause of auditory processing disorder [3], including:
  • Genetics
  • Neurological disorder, disease, or damage (such as brain injury, stroke or MS)
  • Prenatal/neonatal factors (such being born prematurely)
  • Age-related changes in the central auditory nervous system

The last one is interesting. Auditory processing disorder in adults can be due to aging.

classroom maths online games Auditory Processing Disorder treatment

Signs you may have auditory processing disorder

As we mentioned, APD can manifest itself in both life and work. For example, you may:

  • forget instructions
  • misunderstand what’s said
  • be slow to respond, or
  • drift off/tune out.
Adults with auditory processing disorder aren’t lazy. However, adults with APD more easily disengage from tasks because they have to work so much harder just to keep up. 
auditory processing disorder in adults

Is there an auditory processing disorder test for adults?

Yes, there is. Tests for auditory processing disorder are administered by a qualified audiologist. After ruling out hearing deficits as a cause, an auditory processing assessment will assess your auditory processing skills.

Online auditory processing disorder test

People aged 5 and above who meet the eligiblity requirements can enrol in our online auditory processing disorder test.
You need an iPad to complete this test at home.
The test is research validated and results are evaluated by professionals.

So how do we treat auditory processing difficulties? Auditory Processing Disorder treatment involves 3 steps. Often though, step 3 (the most important step) is missing.

Treatment for auditory processing disorder

After Auditory Processing Disorder has been identified, most treatment focuses on helping you cope with the problem. Strategies include:
Compensating for the problem by changing the way you receive and access information.
Some examples include:
  • breaking up instructions
  • checking for understanding
  • providing visual aids.

Changing the environment to make listening easier.
Some examples include moving closer to the speaker (for example, sitting closer to the front at a seminar), reducing noise and echo, and amplifying the speaker’s voice.

auditory processing difficulties
❌ While these coping strategies will make listening and learning a little easier, they will not fix the auditory processing problem – in fact, they’re a bandaid. What will target the cause of auditory processing disorder?
To target the cause of auditory processing disorder in adults, treatment must include this often missing step:
Skill building – training the brain to process sound correctly and quickly.
Yes, this is possible!
  • But it requires actively training the brain to process sounds quickly and accuracy, to pay attention when processing auditory information, and to remember that information

  • To achieve this, we use Fast ForWord, a program that’s proven to improve many areas of auditory processing.

  • Fast ForWord is designed to change the brain, re-wiring it for listening, attention and memory.
How to help students with learning disabilities - self monitoring

If you experience APD, feel free to book a free phone consult to discuss online training programs or request our comprehensive APD info pack.


[1] Obuchi C, Ogane S, Sato Y, Kaga K. Auditory symptoms and psychological characteristics in adults with auditory processing disorders. J Otol. 2017 Sep;12(3):132-137. doi: 10.1016/j.joto.2017.05.001. Epub 2017 May 15. PMID: 29937848; PMCID: PMC5963468. [PubMed]
[2] Cooper J.C., Jr., Gates G.A. Hearing in the elderly-The Framingham cohort, 1983-1985: Part Ⅱ. Prevalence of central auditory processing disorders. Ear Hear. 1991;12:304–311. [PubMed
[3] American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website, Central Auditory Processing Disorder

Learn more & contact us

CAPD APD auditory processing disorder Info pack

Download APD info pack

Find out how to best help an adult or a student with APD, how to understand APD test results, and how Fast ForWord can help.

Fast forword

Online auditory processing test

Easy, cost-effective auditory processing test for people aged 5 and above. Research validated and evaluated by speech pathologists and audiologists.

Book a free phone consult

This free telephone consultation can help to answer any questions you have about our services. At Sonic Learning we are all experienced teachers and health professionals so parents tend to find it very beneficial to be able to discuss their concerns and receive guidance from our team.

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