Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information. Individuals with APD usually have normal structure and function of the outer, middle and inner ear (peripheral hearing). However, they cannot process the information they hear in the same way as others do, which leads to difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds, especially the sounds composing speech.
The Committee of UK Medical Professionals Steering the UK Auditory Processing Disorder Research Program have developed the following working definition of Auditory Processing Disorder:
"APD results from impaired neural function and is characterized by poor recognition, discrimination, separation, grouping, localization, or ordering of speech sounds. It does not solely result from a deficit in general attention, language or other cognitive processes."
At age 20, Chelsea Briggs was always turning up the television to what her husband was finding intolerable levels. Convinced they needed to get her hearing tested, the Chesterfield couple couldn't have imagined Chelsea would eventually be diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD); they were then faced with a lack of support and information to help them cope.
"After a hearing test and referral to the hospital, Chelsea was given hearing aids and we thought these would help" Chelsea's husband Simon explains:
"But after further tests we were told she had APD, something we'd never heard of and we were sent away with confusing leaflets and left to cope with it on our own."
Auditory Processing Disorder is not a problem with the ears in hearing sounds, but a difficulty with the brain in processing them, making it difficult for sufferers to understand speech. There is a lot that isn't known about the condition.
"Every aspect of Chelsea's life is affected. Noisy places are terrible for her and she says that everything feels jumbled up in her head. She struggles to understand instructions - and as she has a physical disability too - I have had to become her full time carer and point of contact for all communication," Simon said.
With a 10 month old baby boy, the couple are now worried that their young son may be affected by the condition, which is thought may be passed on genetically. Simon explains:
"Our son has had initial hearing tests and we now have to wait until he is over a year old for further tests. This is extremely worrying for us as parents, especially as we are realizing how little is known about APD and how there is nothing that can be done" Simon continues:
"The most frustrating thing for me has been the lack of support and knowledge, even when I try to talk to the consultants at the hospital they don't seem to know how to help. I try to research as much as I can on the internet and this is how I came across the charity Deafness Research UK who sent me some useful information."
Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK, said:
"Deafness Research UK funds research into Auditory Processing Disorders and we are currently funding a project to develop more accurate diagnostic tests. While the charity is passionate about research and finding new cures and treatments, we are also here to offer help, support, information and practical guidance for people faced with the challenges of hearing disorders. Anyone with any questions or concerns regarding APD can contact our free-phone information line on 0808 808 2222 or visit our website where we have an APD fact sheet."
Deafness Research UK is the country's only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for the deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people including tinnitus sufferers.
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