Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)

APD (auditory processing disorder, also known as central deafness) is a hearing disorder that affects how the brain processes speech. 

Unlike deafness or blindness, a brain processing disorder is a hard concept to grasp, and the condition can be easily missed.

While the ear ‘hears’ sound normally, people with APD find it difficult to process sounds and to understand what they have heard.

APD kids

Who has APD?

APD occurs in about 5–15% of children – estimates vary. It is more common in boys. Children with APD are usually of normal intelligence and may pass standard hearing tests.  Read about our APD support and campaign for fair funding


APD may be caused by:

•  hereditary factors

•  birth-related factors

•  delay in milestones

•  glue ear (otitis media) in infancy or early childhood.


Diagnosis requires specialised testing. Many children remain undiagnosed, mislabelled as disruptive or slow. 

Hearing aids and microphone: first-line treatment

There is good evidence that specialised hearing aids and a microphone using FM technology are effective. Experts say this is the first intervention to try. Studies also show that these aids may improve a child’s natural hearing over time.

The system consists of a lapel-style or a ‘pop-star’-style microphone, which the teacher or parent wears. This transmits their voice wirelessly to a receiver attached to the child’s hearing aids and/or cochlear implants.


Signs and symptoms can include:

  • 1.

    difficulty understanding and remembering what people say unless it is clear and simple

  • 2.

    difficulty hearing in noisy settings

  • 3.

    extreme tiredness after school

  • 4.

    learning problems with language, spelling, vocabulary, reading or writing.

We’re taking action on APD

APD is still not fully understood by the government, schools or the community. Every day, many children with APD are silently failing because of lack of awareness.

Funding gap: Currently many children with APD are denied full funding for hearing aids. The Foundation is backing their bid for support.

Read about our campaign for fair funding for APD families.