Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and Smoking


The Link Between Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and Smoking

Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and Smoking, Austin, TX

As if we haven’t been given enough reasons to refrain from smoking, The Journal of Physiology published an article this spring describing the harmful auditory effects of perinatal nicotine exposure (full article here).  Based on this research using animal models, children that are exposed to nicotine both in utero and after birth may develop abnormal auditory brainstem responses.  An abnormal auditory brainstem response can cause delayed or atypical development during childhood including auditory processing deficits, delayed speech development, and learning difficulties.  But what does this mean?


An auditory processing deficit is not synonymous with a loss of hearing.  In fact, one hallmark of auditory processing disorder is normal outer, middle, and cochlear or inner ear structure and function.  The deficit lies in the transmission of sound from ear level to brain level, meaning this is a central nervous system deficit.  Sound is picked up appropriately by the healthy ear, but it is not effectively discerned by the brain after traveling along the vestibulocochlear nerve and enters the neuronal structure of the auditory pathway.


So what can an auditory processing disorder look like? Symptoms can include but are not limited to:


  • Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments

  • Difficulty differentiating between similar sounds

  • Unable to follow extensive list of directions or remember large amounts of information given verbally at one time

  • Trouble with temporal or timing cues

  • Requiring visual cues to understand information

  • Asking for repetition repeatedly


In children, the presentation of APD can be misdiagnosed as a specific language impairment (SLI), developmental dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder (ADD).  Diagnosis of a child is often determined by the specialized health care professional that is seen initially, whether that is an audiologist, speech pathologist, or psychiatrist.  An audiologist is the healthcare provider to perform accurate diagnostic testing and offer management options for those with a true auditory processing deficit.


TLDR; there are auditory processing deficits that occur in people with otherwise healthy ears and normal hearing.  Seek the expertise of an audiologist who specializes in auditory processing disorders if you or your child are experiencing any of the symptoms above.  Also…just to reiterate the starting point… nicotine exposure is harmful to children both peri- and postnatal.  The more you know!

The Hearing & Balance Center of Austin specializes in hearing  related disorders including tinnitus and hearing loss, neurophysiological disorders as well as dizziness/balance disorders.  Currently accepting new adult and pediatric audiology patients. The Hearing & Balance Center of Austin is the hearing and balance division of Great Hills ENT and serves the greater Austin area including the Arboretum, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Lago Vista, Jonestown, Steiner Ranch, Lakeway, Spicewood and Point Venture. We are proud to provide excellent care to our patients for general Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) services, hearing loss, hearing aids, tinnitus, dizziness/vertigo and sleep disorders