Central Auditory Processing Disorders (CAPD) and ADHD

Everything you need to know about central auditory processing disorders (CAPD) -- including a symptoms checklist and information on diagnosis and treatment. Plus, how adults with CAPD and ADD/ADHD can use auditory processing activities and strategies to improve communication.

Identifying Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) Symptoms

What about the tone of voice that George complained he heard from Diane? The trouble can start in the right temporal lobe, according to clinical neuroscientist Dr. Charles Parker, founder of CorePsych Blog. The non-dominant temporal lobe (usually the right) processes facial expressions, verbal tones, and intonations from others, as well as hearing rhythms and music.

Parker cites the example of an Olympic skier who took a bad fall during practice. Having sustained a head injury and a concussion, his right temporal lobe showed significantly diminished function. Yet he presented with denial (also called low insight) regarding deteriorating communication he had with his wife and peers, firmly asserting that he had no problems. In this way, he had much in common with those adults with ADD/ADHD who have no perspective about their challenges. For these people, it's important to know that therapy emphasizing better communication strategies might not solve the problems.

After reading the skier's SPECT scan, Parker said to him, "You are the kind of guy who doesn't get it, and doesn't admit he doesn't get it." The patient took a deep breath and, with a dazed look, responded quickly, "No, I get it." Parker pointed out that he'd done it again -- given a pat answer that didn't reflect comprehension -- and asked the patient to repeat what Parker had just said. He mumbled an intelligent but jargon-filled answer. His wife chimed in: "This is what happens all the time."

As Parker recalls: "Ultimately, he did get it, because the SPECT scans and the problems with others proved undeniable. Medication and targeted supplements improved his communication skills."

One needn't have an injured brain to suffer from CAPD, Parker points out. "Many contributing factors may create diminished temporal lobe function," he says, "from commonplace, subtle challenges with gluten sensitivity to sleep medications. Any of these brain challenges, amplified by coexisting ADD/ADHD, will bring communication challenges to a relationship."

CAPD and ADD/ADHD Listening Strategies

Core ADD/ADHD traits -- distractibility, inattention, and poor working memory -- apart from CAPD, can contribute to a Tower of Babel twosome. These practical strategies can ease communication tangles.

For Partners of Adults with ADD/ADHD:

  • Eliminate distracting noises (turn off the TV or computer) before speaking with your partner.
  • Touch your partner on the arm or shoulder before speaking, allowing him time to shift his focus from what he was doing to the conversation you are having.

  • Ask your partner to repeat what you've said, to make sure it was understood.
  • Speak concisely, eliminating superfluous detail.

For Adults with ADD/ADHD:

  • Recognize that listening closely to your partner means that you value him.
  • Listen first, respond second. Set aside what you were doing, what you're thinking of doing when your partner finishes talking, or unrelated topics. If you need time to shape a response, ask for it.
  • Use relaxation techniques to clear your mind before important conversations.

For Couples:

  • For some topics, e-mail works best. An adult with ADD/ADHD needs time to formulate a response, without feeling the pressure of having to respond immediately.

  • Don't insist on eye contact when talking about something important. Eye contact distracts some ADHDers.
  • Walk and talk. Exercise reduces stress and increases blood flow to the brain.

When these strategies fall short, consider taking a stimulant, if you're not doing so already. "Stimulants often help transmit messages more reliably," Kutscher says, "as well as enabling the person to pay attention to the information being talked about." Both are essential to sustaining a relationship.

More About Conditions Related to ADD/ADHD

Is It Anxiety or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Asperger's Syndrome or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Autism or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Bipolar Disorder or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Depression or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Executive Function Disorder (EFD) or ADD/ADHD?
Is It a Learning Disability or Inattentive ADD/ADHD?
Is It OCD or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) or ADD/ADHD?
Is It Sensory Processing Disorder or ADD/ADHD?

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