Auditory Processing Disorder Testing

Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition where the brain has difficulty processing and interpreting auditory information correctly.

What is Auditory Processing Disorder (APD)?

APD is a term for hearing disorders in which the ears process sound normally, but the brain does not. In New Zealand it is estimated that 6.2% of children have APD, although global estimates for the general population range from 2 to 11%. Some populations are at a greater risk (34% in Māori and Pacific Islanders). APD can affect academic achievement, participation, career opportunities and psychosocial development.

What are the signs and symptoms of APD?

People with APD do not have a sensory (peripheral) hearing loss, so it cannot be identified from a standard hearing test alone. Often they have had a hearing test in the past and been told that they have “normal hearing” but this does not match up with their day-to-day experience. People with APD may show signs of hearing difficulty (especially in background noise) or poor listening skills. They can experience trouble knowing which direction sounds are coming from. They may be slow to process spoken information, have problems with comprehension, language, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, reading or written language.

What causes APD?

For a lot of people APD will be a lifelong difference, possibly present from birth or childhood. APD commonly occurs alongside other types of learning difficulties or neurodiversity e.g. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, language disorders etc. There is evidence to suggest that other factors such as head trauma and chronic ear infections could play a role in impaired development of the auditory system at a young age.

What should I do if I suspect APD?

The first step for suspected APD is a full diagnostic (peripheral) hearing test to rule out other causes of hearing difficulties. If you have already had a hearing test your audiologist will help you to know whether that test is suitable or whether repeat testing or a more comprehensive type of test is needed to meet the specific requirements.

An adult full diagnostic hearing test costs $80 (or $60 with a community services or gold card).

A paediatric (child) full diagnostic hearing test costs $120.

Your audiologist may need further information before making a recommendation, e.g. questionnaires completed by a schoolteacher, to be returned to for audiologist review.


We will consider the hearing test results, results of questionnaires, any information you provide, and what listening difficulties you report, to establish whether APD testing is the appropriate next step.

Audiology South is able to offer comprehensive APD testing that is evidence-based and follows the New Zealand Audiological Society (NZAS) guidelines. This is appropriate for clients aged 7 years and older. The APD testing appointment will be booked for 2 hours but more or less time may be required, at a set cost of $450. This includes a formal written report.

APD assessment is also available for children through Te Whatu Ora (at Wakari Hospital). There is no cost for a public assessment, although there can be a significant wait due to high demand. Adult testing is not available at Wakari Hospital. 

What treatment or support is available?

There is no known ‘cure’ for APD, but often the person’s quality of life can be improved with the support of communication strategies, auditory training, and/or technology.

If a child is diagnosed with APD (in either the public or private health system) they are referred to their school’s Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCo) so that the school can consider the child’s needs and make appropriate accommodations in the classroom. If certain criteria are met this may include an application for funding from the Ministry of Education (MoE) to trial a remote microphone (RM) system.

RM systems allow learners to hear one voice (e.g. the teacher, via a microphone) by streaming that sound directly to devices worn on their ears. This has been shown to improve speech understanding in noise over distance, to support learning in the busy classroom environment.

If MoE funding is obtained for a child, an RM trial will be arranged through Wakari Hospital Audiology Department.

For all clients diagnosed with APD, Audiology South are able to offer ongoing support, including the supply and fitting of RM devices or hearing aids. Your audiologist will make recommendations for your unique situation.

If you're considering APD testing or have questions about our services, we encourage you to reach out to your local Audiology South clinic. Our staff will assist you in understanding the testing process and help determine the most convenient location for your needs.