New project into children’s disorder by Horsham-based charity

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Horsham-based children’s charity Action Medical Research is funding a new project to improve diagnosis of an often unrecognised condition, so children can receive better support and treatment.

Auditory processing disorder (APD) can seriously affect children’s education and quality of life. It makes it difficult for these children to make sense of what people are saying to them, even though hearing tests show their ears are working well. Difficulties in understanding speech when there’s a lot of background noise is a hallmark symptom of APD.

APD is thought to result from problems with the way sounds are processed in the brain. Children with the condition may have speech and language disorders, problems reading or spelling, and academic difficulties. And, because of all these daily challenges, their self-confidence can suffer.

Estimates suggest up to seven per cent of children have APD, but the condition is poorly understood.

People with APD often have difficulties listening, particularly if there is background noise, or if a sound is not clear. They can find it hard to tell where sounds are coming from. They may mishear words, will frequently ask for things to be repeated, and may take a while to respond to what they are being told. Their focus may drift during conversation and they can have trouble remembering long strings of information.

Dr Doris-Eva Bamiou, of University College London’s Ear Institute, is leading the research.

She says: “Other people may mistakenly perceive children with APD as naughty, uncooperative or even lacking in intelligence. Unfortunately, there is no ‘gold standard’ in diagnosis and the disorder all too often goes unrecognised.”

She and her team are aiming to develop a selection of techniques that together can be used to improve diagnosis. “Children with a clear diagnosis can more easily access the type of support that is most appropriate for them,” she explains.

The team also hopes to improve understanding of the biological basis of APD in terms of brain activity, which can be used to help better treatment in the future. Around 30 children aged eight to 11 years are taking part in the study, during which they will wear head caps fitted with sensors that monitor brain activity using electroencephalography (EEG).

Report submitted by Action Medical Research