Auditory processing disorder

5 Common Myths About Auditory Processing Disorder

By The Understood Team

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In recent years, researchers have made huge strides toward understanding auditory processing disorder (APD). More and more children are being diagnosed with APD and successfully treated. Yet many misconceptions about APD persist. Here are five common myths—and the truth about each.

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Close up of a young girl responding to her mother looking confused
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Myth #1: Auditory processing disorder is the same thing as being hard of hearing.

Fact: Most people with APD have no hearing loss. Speaking loudly to them won’t help them understand what you’ve said. Scientists aren’t exactly sure what causes APD. Typically, the brain processes sounds seamlessly and almost instantaneously, so people can interpret what they hear. But for people with APD, an issue in the central nervous system delays or scrambles the process. As a result, they frequently confuse sounds and words. To them, “Do you want to sit in the chair?” might sound like “Do you want to sit in the hair?”

Teen girls talking in a busy school hallway between classes
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Myth #2: Auditory processing disorder is extremely rare.

Fact: Although more research needs to be done to determine how common APD is, estimates range from as low as 2 percent of U.S. children to as high as 7 percent. Research also suggests that many kids with learning issues might have an undiagnosed auditory processing disorder. A 2009 study found that 43 percent of children with learning issues also had APD; 25 percent of those children also had dyslexia.

Close up of two boys sitting in class with one working on an assignment and the other watching
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Myth #3: Kids with auditory processing disorder are less intelligent than their peers.

Fact: APD is not connected to a child’s intelligence. In fact, most kids with learning and attention issues have average to above-average intelligence. It’s true, though, that children with APD may score lower on verbal IQ tests than their peers do. They also can appear to be “slow”—taking longer to respond to questions and pick up new concepts. But this isn’t because they’re less intelligent. It’s because they have difficulty processing and interpreting new sounds.

Group of teens standing outside school yard talking
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Myth #4: Auditory processing disorder isn’t real; it’s just a new name for ADHD.

Fact: People with APD and ADHD often show similar symptoms, including being easily distracted and inattentive. There’s believed to be a high rate of co-occurrence with ADHD, meaning many children identified with APD also are diagnosed with ADHD. But research shows that while kids with ADHD struggle with attention in all kinds of settings, children with APD are much more likely to have attention issues specifically in the auditory realm. They can have difficulty hearing when there’s background noise. They may struggle to follow oral instructions and have poor listening skills.

Close up of a young boy in class looking distracted and discouraged
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Myth #5: Children with auditory processing disorder are lazy and rude.

Fact: Kids with APD have trouble processing auditory information. Because of this, they might appear to be ignoring others. They might give incorrect or unrelated answers to questions they mishear. And they may have trouble completing projects or chores, especially if the tasks were assigned orally and required multiple steps. These behaviors might seem like laziness or rudeness, but they’re most likely not.

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About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Joanne Restivo

Joanne Restivo, Au.D., is an audiologist in Newport, California, and a former assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center.

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