How many times has someone had to repeat themselves during a conversation with you? Were your parents convinced that you just weren’t listening as a child? I cannot tell you how many times I heard that from the family that I lived with. I never really gave much thought to my apparent selective hearing but after enlisting in the Army I was told that I suffered some hearing loss. I thought it was due to my military training so I never questioned it. I held on to that little fact all throughout my adulthood and it gave me a bit of validation. I knew that I wasn’t intentionally not listening and now I had proof.
As an adult I would make light of the fact that I couldn’t hear things as well as others. I found ways to adjust and adapt that made it easier for me. I knew I needed things to be fairly quiet and it there was a lot of noise I learned to watch peoples mouths so I could piece together what they were saying. I also learned to read body language and expressions so I could politely nod and smile when I couldn’t grasp the conversation at all. I hate having to ask someone to repeat themselves multiple times. It is frustrating for all people involved.
After marrying my husband, who has speech issues due to brain damage, I really learned the art of reading lips. I tried to explain to him that my hearing was borderline but he still got frustrated having to repeat himself. I finally got to the point that I bought a device to amplify sounds because I was feeling frustrated also. The device was over the counter and did not work. Eventually, I accepted the fact that I might actually need a hearing aid. I made an appointment with my local VA clinic and completed the test that was administered by the doctor. The results were not at all what I expected. I actually had excellent hearing! In fact, my hearing was almost above average. I asked the doctor how she could explain my difficulty with hearing and I never imagined what she would tell me next.
The doctor would go on to tell me that there was some sort of disconnection from when the sound enter my ears to the processing in my brain. I sat there for a few minutes trying to comprehend what she was telling me. Yes, I heard her loud and clear, but it made no sense to me. The Army doctors told me that I suffered from hearing loss, and granted, that test was administered over twenty years ago, but they knew what they were talking about! I was completely thrown for a loop. This new doctor told me that for whatever reason I was unable to process the words people were speaking to me. I asked her how something like this could happen and she told me that it could have been something as common as head trauma. Immediately my thoughts took me back to the story my biological mother told me about me falling and having seizures after a hard bump to the head. One more bad thing that I could directly link to her neglectful raising of me.
I eventually put my diagnosis out of my head since there was nothing I could do to fix the situation. The doctor told me that I could try a hearing aid if I wanted to, but explained that it would only amplify the sharp sounds that hurt my ears. That’s how good my hearing actually is. I accepted what she said and put the diagnosis out of my mind, until a few days ago. I was watching a popular movie in which a man was tested for several learning disabilities and one of them was called Auditory Processing Disorder. I immediately googled it because I had heard those words before. I never would have attributed what I had to a learning disorder but apparently it was! Once I read a few articles on google I felt positive that what the doctor had told me was correct. I fit most of the symptoms one hundred percent. So many things from my life finally made sense. Although written words are something I excel in, spoken words would often get lost if I wasn’t paying close attention.
Auditory Processing Disorder can be caused by any damage to or dysfunction of the central auditory nervous system and can cause auditory processing problems. Some studies even indicated an increased prevalence of a family history of hearing impairment in these patients.
These “short circuits in the wiring” sometimes run in families or result from a difficult birth, just like any learning disability. So before you automatically assume that someone is simply not listening maybe you could take a few moments to ask some questions. Your friends and loved ones may not even realize that they have a disorder. I never knew until a few months ago and now I am much more the wiser.
This diagnosis actually brought me back to the time when I worked drive thru at Jack in the Box and my manager told me that I should be able to take orders and make drinks at the same time. I was so frustrated with the entire situation because I thought that maybe she was right. I became angry with her words and I took the headset off and walked out. I realize now that I never would have been able to listen and “do” at the same time. Now that I know there was nothing I could have done to fix or change the situation I feel it is my duty to make others around me more aware.
The following symptoms are characteristic in children with listening difficulties, and they are typically problematic with adolescents and adults. They include:
- Difficulty hearing in noise
- Auditory attention problems
- Better understanding in one on one situations
- Difficulties in noise localization
- Difficulties in remembering oral information
Individuals who should be referred for audiological and APD assessment includes, among others:
- Difficulty following spoken directions unless they are brief and simple
- Difficulty attending to and remembering spoken information
- Slowness in processing spoken information
- Difficulty understanding in the presence of other sounds
- Overwhelmed by complex or “busy” auditory environments e.g. classrooms, shopping malls
- Poor listening skills
- Insensitivity to tone of voice or other nuances of speech
- Acquired brain injury
- History of frequent or persistent middle ear disease (otitis media, ‘glue ear’).
- Difficulty with language, reading or spelling
- Suspicion or diagnosis of dyslexia
- Suspicion or diagnosis of language disorder or delay
If you know someone who exhibits any of the symptoms above, please suggest that they get tested. There is no cure but there is an awareness to be had.