Does Your Child Have ADHD or Central Auditory Processing Disorder (or Both)?

Children with central auditory processing disorder have similar symptoms to those with ADHD. Both disorders cause children difficulty with paying attention, difficulty distinguishing foreground and background noise, and difficulty with following directions. Some people are unfamiliar with the signs of central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). Here is a comparison of both disorders:


  • The child has difficulty focusing on tasks that are not interesting or stimulating.
  • The child has a hard time ignoring background noises, which makes it hard to pay attention.
  • He or she does not have any notable difficulty with memory.
  • He or she is impulsive, and acts without thinking about consequences.
  • Once you get the child’s attention, he or she can usually understand you.
  • The child is hyperactive and over-reactive, and gets easily overwhelmed.


  • The child has a hard time paying attention to tasks that require active listening.
  • Background noises interfere with information he’s trying to process.
  • He or she may have trouble with auditory memory.
  • Impulsivity is not connected with this disorder.
  • Even when you get the child’s attention, he or she may still have difficulty comprehending your verbal instructions.
  • The child is not necessarily hyperactive, but may act out in frustration due to academic difficulties.

If your child has central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) you might observe that in a noisy room, she not only has greater difficulty hearing (which we all do when it’s noisy) but all the noise gets scrambled together in her mind. It’s not only harder for her to hear, but harder for her to understand. It’s typically not possible to accurately diagnose CAPD until a child is at least seven years old. At that age, there are diagnostic tests which can be given by an audiologist or speech therapist. If you are suspicious of CAPD, request that your child be tested.

For more information on CAPD, see my blog: Now Hear This: What is Auditory Dysfunction?

It’s also possible for your child to have BOTH ADHD and CAPD. This is certainly a confusing situation. Read my blog: Syndrome Soup: When Your Kid Has a Mixed Diagnosis

Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.