When Your Child Can Hear You, But Can't Listen

Monday, January 28, 2019

More and more processing disorders are coming to light. As science and technology progresses, so does man's understanding. Central Auditory Processing Disorder was something that I had never even heard of, up until a few years ago. Now, it is something I am acutely aware of in my daily life, and I feel it should be talked about more often.

Blonde haired pre-teen, wearing a fedora hat, smiling and looking off to the side.

Now, I'm not going to go into a whole educational post here, regarding the tedious details on what CAPD exactly is, simply because it is a lot of information and is a spectrum. However, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) describes it as this: "Central auditory processing (CAP)—also seen in the literature as (central) auditory processing or auditory processing—is the perceptual processing of auditory information in the central auditory nervous system (CANS) and the neurobiological activity that underlies that processing and gives rise to electrophysiologic auditory potentials (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association [ASHA], 2005).".

So what does that mean? Well, to put it in layman's terms, it is both an auditory and language processing disorder that affects you on phonemic, linguistic, and, you guessed it, central auditory processing levels. How I remember it is this-- You hear with your ears, and listen with your brain. Somewhere in the moments when the sound is communicated from your ear to your brain, things are changed. Distorted. Then we don't do the listening of the hearing, very well. Get it?

Blonde haired pre-teen smiling at the camera, wearing a pair of noise reducing headphones. Man sitting next to her with short dark hair and glasses, smiling at the camera

If you don't, that's fine. It's a lot. It's taken me years of reading and research to understand the little bit that I do. So what's that have to do with right now? Well, my daughter was diagnosed with CAPD a few years ago. Ever since then, it's made daily existence a bit easier to understand. And a bit harder. Why's that?

As with any diagnosis, knowledge is power. With that power, comes great responsibility... Right? Yep. Knowing that she has Central Auditory Processing Disorder, forces me to have a lot of patience and to constantly be aware of the fact that she, while being able to hear me, may not be able to listen. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to just get annoyed at the fact that your child isn't responding to you, reprimand them, and move on. But that's just not the appropriate response here.

Some common "symptoms" of CAPD are these:

Blonde haired pre-teen, sitting next to her mom, looking off to the right, with her red curly haired mother leaning against her, eyes closed and resting.
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty comprehending and following rapid speech
  • Being easily distracted
  • Frequent requests for repetition, saying "what" and "huh" a lot
  • Taking longer to respond to in oral communication situations
  • Reading, spelling, and learning problems
  • Inconsistent or inappropriate responses 
  • Hyper auditory sensitivity
 Honestly, the list can really go on. But as you can see, there are quite a few things that can become... frustrating. Not only the person with CAPD, but also those around them.

Learning of her Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis, though, was incredibly helpful. She had some difficulties with her short term memory (long term memory is extraordinary) and we noticed how frequently she would mishear things said to her. The testing was grueling, but very thorough. After her diagnosis, we were able to move forward with her in a lot of ways, and she's doing fantastic. Granted, it's been a couple of years work, but it's been so worth it. I only wish I would have known about the "symptoms" earlier in her life, so we could have gotten help at a younger age!

Short blonde haired pre-teen, looking off to the right, with a black hat on and maroon floral dress, surrounded by green bushes. Caption reads "When Your Child Can Hear You, But Can't Listen"

Basically, all of the processing disorders have their ups and downs. There are funny moments that we can laugh at (like if she mishears something and it comes out strange sounding), and there are moments that are really rough (auditory fatigue is no joke, y'all), but Central Auditory Processing Disorder can be helped.

If your child seems to hear you, but isn't listening, there might be a reason..


  1. Very interesting. This is the first I have heard of this disorder. It's always good to be aware of these things when dealing with kids.

  2. I can definitely see a few things from the common symptoms that would easily be mistaken for a child just not focusing or respecting your words if you weren't aware of these conditions.
    The fact you are building awareness for it is amazing and I am sure so many parents will be thankful.

    1. It's definitely a common problem! I have seen SO many kids getting in trouble for things that, to me, seem like they can't be helped. I really think more people need to understand this

  3. It's great that you were able to get a diagnosis and it sounds like you and your family have a great understanding of it. Good luck to you all

  4. You described my 8yo daughter spot on! She was just recently diagnosed with APD as well, and we are so glad we are able to figure out what was going on. I've learned lots of patience this past few months.

    1. That's awesome! It really does help to understand. The biggest thing, for me, was understanding that my daughter experiences auditory fatigue. Every night, she needs to be able to wind down in her room with quiet.. Otherwise, the next day is gonna be rough


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