Attention deficit?

February 15, 2008 by Martin Guilbert
Deficit de l'attention?
Learning disorders touch more than 10% of the Canadian population (1), this includes children. These deficits are variable, complex and affect individuals differently. Learning disorders affect the brain’s capacity to absorb, store and recall information (1). Central auditory processing disorders and attention deficit disorders are some of the most common learning disorders (2).

Auditory disorders

There are two types of auditory disorders: peripheral and central. First, for a peripheral hearing loss, the perception or transmission of sound is altered (3). We can therefore say that the person doesn’t hear optimally. Peripheral hearing loss can be corrected with hearing aids and Frequency Modulated (FM) systems.

Déficit de l'attention ? On the other hand, a central auditory disorder is characterised by a reduction of the brain’s capacity to integrate, organise and translate auditory messages (3). Several causes are possible: tumours, haemorrhages, head trauma, delays in the central nervous system’s maturation, developmental deficits, etc. (3).

Certain behaviours can help us suspect an auditory disorder, whether it is peripheral or central. A child who has difficulty staying concentrated for an appropriate period of time, is easily distracted by noise, who talks loudly, who doesn’t react when his name is called out in a noisy environment or confuses sounds which resemble one another can have a peripheral or central auditory deficit. Obviously, this isn’t a complete list of characterising behaviours, others do exist (3). It should be noted that the most frequent observation is that children with central auditory disorders are rather inconsistent when it comes to their reactions to sound (4).

The diagnostic is essential, because it leads to the elaboration of numerous solutions to help the child in school. For example, placing the child in the front of the class, using visual support, reducing noise levels, informing students and teachers, using an FM system, reducing the deficit through intensive therapy with a speech-language pathologist, a specialised teacher or an audiologist are only some of the solutions possible(3).

Attention deficit disorders (ADD)

ADD with or without hyperactivity is one of the most common deficits in school aged children. Three elements compose this deficit: reduced attention, possible hyperactivity and variable degrees of impulsivity (5). These behaviours must be constant, persist in time and be observed both in school and at home.

Déficit de l'attention ?

Contrary to auditory disorders, medication and psychological therapy can be used to attenuate symptoms and optimise personal and academic success. Psycho-stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®, Bipentin® and Concerta®) and amphetamine derivatives (Adderall® and Dexedrine®) or non-stimulating medication like atomoxetine (Strattera®) are usually the drugs prescribed.

A precise diagnostic is essential!

Certainly, auditory disorders can be confused with ADD; this is why it is important to screen for this early on. Certain signs and symptoms may be similar, but the cause is different (6). In addition, a child with an auditory disorder may also have ADD. If a parent believes that his child has an auditory disorder, and parents tend to be right (3), it is important that the child be evaluated by an audiologist so that a precise diagnostic can be established. The doctor can then evaluate if the child suffers from ADD with or without hyperactivity. In summery, when parents believe that their child has a learning disorder, it is essential that a hearing evaluation be completed by a qualified professional.

It is essential that the right diagnostic be made, this avoids useless intake of medication and permits the use of adequate compensation strategies. The main objective is to optimise the child’s success.

Central auditory processing evaluations are offered by audiologists working in the Lobe Santé auditive et communication multidisciplinary clinics. Ask us about it!
1. Association québécoise des troubles d’apprentissage. [En ligne] Page consultée le 28 novembre 2007 :
2. Carrefour Éducation. «Guides thématiques d’octobre : mois de la sensibilisation aux troubles d’apprentissage.» [En ligne] Page consultée le 28 novembre 2007 :
3. Blais C. «Audition et troubles d’apprentissage y a-t-il un lien ?» Le médecin du Québec, volume 36, numéro 10, octobre 2001.
4. Normandin N., R. Ducharme-Roy et c. Roberge. «Problèmes auditifs et centraux. Modèle d’intervention audiologique auprès d’une clientèle pédiatrique scolarisée.» Atelier de perfectionnement de l’OOAQ, 27 septembre 1997.
5. «Trouble du déficit de l’attention avec ou sans hyperactivité.» [En ligne] Page consultée le 23 novembre 2007 :
6. Brooks S., d. Guérin et m. Trudel. «Trouble de l’audition centrale et déficit de l’attention.» [En ligne] Page consultée le 23 novembre 2007 :