What is an Auditory Comprehension Disorder?

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  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2019
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Auditory comprehension disorder is a synonym for the more recognized term auditory processing disorder (APD). This is a difficult condition that interferes with the way sound is processed, so that communication becomes much more difficult. The person with APD may have trouble understanding sentences, directions, phone conversation, and more, and this often leads to challenges in schools and poor language acquisition for children. The condition may remain or it may first occur in adulthood and create continued challenges in communication in all aspects of life. There is no one single cause of auditory comprehension disorder and no cure, though treatments and training can greatly improve ability to successfully navigate the world of conversation.

It must be understood that auditory comprehension disorder is not a hearing deficit. People with this condition usually have normal hearing, but when their ears receive sounds, the rate at which those sounds are interpreted as meaningful words or sentences is much lower than normal. In children this often leads to behavior in schools that can be misdiagnosed as other problems. Children might be dismissed as distractible, insolent for failing to follow directions, dyslexic, poor learners, ADHD or below grade level. So much classroom learning depends on a teacher talking and a child understanding what is said that it is not difficult to understand why kids with APD quickly fall behind.


Some of the things that occur that may causes issues with comprehension or processing include simply misunderstanding words, mixing up words, reduced hearing when there is significant noise in a room, as from fans, computer monitors and et cetera, or not having learned words due to ADP. It’s hoped that this condition is found quickly, and certified audiologists can diagnose it. Once a diagnosis is made, life can greatly improve because this is a protected disability. In school settings, students must be given support and education and they typically receive special training of a variety of kinds and special adaptations like preferential seating to help minimize comprehension deficits.

The adult with this condition, either from childhood or newly developed, requires support too. Help is usually obtained through diagnosis from an audiologist and continued work with that specialist or speech language therapists. There are a variety of adaptations that are useful to adults. Some turn up volume of devices like phones for clearer hearing, others can be directives to give instructions in a written form, and yet others might be the use of earplugs in noisy environments. There is always a trial period with adaptations to find out which ones are most effective.

Regrettably, auditory comprehension disorder is not curable, but many people have productive and successful lives with modifications to their environment. Children manifesting the condition at an early age are at greater advantage, in some ways, than adults who did not have the diagnosis detected in childhood. Adults with this condition may have accrued a lifetime of negative messages about abilities, especially from schools and parents. Recovering from these messages is difficult and takes time.


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