Listening Problems and Mental Health: Can Auditory Processing Problems Cause Depression?

depression auditory processing disorder
Hearing Health & Technology Matters
June 12, 2018

What is Auditory processing disorder?

Auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD), is a complex auditory perception disorder that affects the brain’s ability to process and interpret auditory information. It is important to understand that APD is not a result of a hearing loss or a problem with the ears themselves, but rather a difficulty in how the brain processes sound.

APD encompasses various specific disorders that can manifest differently in individuals. Common symptoms include difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments, trouble following instructions, easily becoming overwhelmed by auditory stimuli, and misinterpreting or confusing similar-sounding words.

These challenges can significantly impact an individual’s ability to communicate effectively, engage in conversations, and participate in academic or social activities.

One of the key aspects of APD is the inability to perceive subtle differences in sounds, which can lead to difficulties in distinguishing speech sounds, recognizing patterns in language, and discriminating between similar words or sounds. This can result in challenges with reading, spelling, and overall language comprehension.

Unfortunately, APD is often misdiagnosed or overlooked as hearing impairment or a lack of attention or listening skills. Proper assessment by an audiologist or speech-language pathologist who specializes in APD is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate intervention.

Early identification and intervention are essential in managing APD.

Auditory Processing Disorders in Children

Early childhood is a phase where the child’s development is completely dependent on their ability to use and understand language. During this age, APD can cause many problems.

Around 5% of school-aged children are affected by APD. Here are some of the signs that children with APD will show:

  • Misunderstanding instructions for the first time
  • Behaving as if there is a loss of hearing
  • Failing to understand where a sound is originating from
  • Appearing uncomfortable in noisy settings
  • Confusing words that sound alike

APD can be diagnosed at an early age if parents, teachers and other caregivers are quick to identify some of the symptoms mentioned above (however, age 7 is typically thought of as the youngest age a child can be tested for CAPD). Behavior patterns and conversations in the classroom can help in early diagnosis of APD, after other conditions are ruled out.

After referring to a general physician, further audiologic testing is done. Finally, a team that comprises of an audiologist, educational psychologist and a speech therapist do a formal assessment and evaluate the needs of the child.

Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults

Adults can also suffer from auditory processing issues. Here are some other reported issues that are faced by adults experiencing APD:

  • Difficulty in carrying out phone conversation
  • Difficulty following detailed directions and long conversations
  • Do not appreciate music
  • Social anxiety issues
  • Spelling, reading, writing issues

APD and Depression

According to research by NCBI, both children and adults suffering from auditory processing disorder tend to suffer from poor mental health and are at high risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Needless to say, auditory processing disorders represent an under-recognized, and often undiagnosed, cause of depression.

APD makes it challenging to make sense of words being spoken, weakens phonemic awareness and makes reading and writing a huge chore. Ultimately, this can lead a person to start feeling exhausted, depressed and begins to avoid social interactions.

As the strains and stresses escalate, friends and family can take steps help. Here are some ways in which you can help your loved one with APD get to a better place:

  1. Provide agendas or notes before a school lecture or an office meeting. This helps the person to review the concepts and sync with the new terms, making it easier to interpret them later on.
  2. Give them preferential seating in a meeting or classroom. When the person is able to see the speaker, they can make things out by lip-reading and bodily gestures.
  3. Try to reduce noise from the rooms next door and the hallway by shutting the door.
  4. Use closed-captions or subtitles while showing a video.
  5. Allow the use of a tape recorder during meetings, classes and any other private appointments. This way, the person can listen it again until all instructions are clear.
  6. If possible, allow the use of an assistive listening device (ALD). These are electronic devices that are used in large meeting rooms where a pair of headphones is given to the hearer and the speaker uses a wireless mic. This setup allows information to transmit directly through the headphones and cuts out any extraneous noises.
  7. Rephrase instead of repeat. Most people mistake APD as a hearing problem, so they repeat instructions loudly. But instead of repeating, try to re-phrase what is being communicated. When the sentence is structured differently, it makes it easier for the person to discern meaning.



APD can be a very misunderstood disorder, making things even more frustrating for the patient. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disorder. As people with APD start to overcome the initial social obstacles, things become more comfortable. Friends and family can help together to look for ways that make communication more accessible and more efficient.

But it is essential to understand that conversational difficulties of people with APD do not affect their performance abilities and confidence. People should realize that APD patients are suffering from an actual disorder and are not rude or lazy.

Do you have a firsthand experience of dealing with a person who suffers from APD? Or are you an APD warrior yourself? Please share your story with us in the comments below!


About the author

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia


  1. I have struggled with this my entire life. In school I got fair grades but the noises of chair shifts, pencils on paper and relentless chatter and whispering made audible learning near impossible. This experience in turn caused me to limit exposure to noise, especially in environments such as restaurants, parties or get together(s). I also began hearing odd things in noisy non-human spaces such as voices while running water causing me to search for the source. Eventually by college, I had to drop out and seek work where you had little social interaction.

    This culminated in my late 40’s when I moved to the city from rural America. I had so much difficulty following a promotion at work that required extensive local travel that I eventually suffered a mental break. I couldn’t filter any of the noise as I drove regardless of what I tried. I began having panic attacks, OCD, generalized anxiety, treatment resistant depression and now PTSD. I shut myself away and struggled with massive headaches identified as migraines. I isolated myself, stopped driving, and ultimately ended up losing my job and nearly my marriage.

    It wasn’t until after nearly a year of failed medications, psychiatric interventions, cognitive behavioral therapy that someone was able to put the pieces together. However this type of issue isn’t well known and therapy to support recovery isn’t well documented or is a bandaid to support the problems. I was so distraught during all this I was actively putting my list of things to do together prior to taking my life. It can make you that crazy.

    Today I’m having to start over with life in many ways. Career, education (online), repairing family bonds and struggling to sleep and even leave my house.

    There needs to be much more education on this topic and more structured approach to identifying and treating it. This issue gets both unreported and avoided due to stigma with mental health issues. Being free to report the problem without judgement of mental instability as a teenager and having effective treatment options would have changed my life 30 years ago. I only wish I had those years back again.

  2. As a kid with APD you get help in school. Where is help for adults struggling with APD ? Getting a job it’s almost impossible, first interview is on the phone. Figure that out, how person with APD will do and how does he feel after. I need help for my very bright young man who graduated college with honors and now is stuck at home depressed and not able to get a job

    1. Your not allone 45 male, married 2 kids and dealing with the same problem.

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