Could you or someone you love have an auditory processing disorder?

People who have auditory processing disorders struggle to understand the world around them because of the way their brains process sound. Most people who have auditory processing disorders are diagnosed during childhood or their teenage years, but some cases go undiagnosed until adulthood.

An auditory processing disorder affects your ability to understand language and your ability to relate to people. Read on to find out if you could have this hearing problem.

What Are the Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults?

Auditory processing disorders in adults manifest themselves as problems with listening to others, issues with reading comprehension, and chronic miscommunication with partners, family members, friends, and coworkers. Auditory processing disorders interfere with the ability to understand information conveyed orally. Some people who have this kind of disorder describe their experience of the world as “trying to have a conversation on your cell phone when the signal keeps cutting out.” Auditory processing disorders lead to garbled communications and chronic problems with communication.

There isn’t a tiny speaker in your head that relays information from the sounds you hear in the outside world. Everyone’s experience of sound is virtual. Sound waves stop at your eardrum. From there, they are transmitted through nerves to your brain as electrical impulses.

When someone speaks to you, their vocal cords generate sound waves that travel through the air to your eardrum. Your eardrum vibrates, causing motion in three tiny bones that in turn transmit electrical signals to your brain. Your brain interprets those electrical signals as sound and gives those sounds meaning.

In someone who has an auditory processing disorder, the brain is not able to assign meanings to sounds.

People who have auditory processing disorders tend to say “What?” and “Huh” a lot. They may display symptoms like these:

  • Turning up the sound on the TV set, but still did not understand the program.
  • Being in constant trouble for not having heard part of instructions or requests.
  • Difficulty remembering lists. For instance, if you forget your shopping list, you may be mystified as to why you went to the grocery store. If you are going to several appointments on the same day, you may need to write them down to remember all of them.
  • Not being able to remember names after you are introduced to people.
  • Constantly having the feeling you are missing something in a conversation.
  • A good sense for numbers, but difficulty with words.

Auditory processing disorders also interfere with performance at work. If you have an auditory processing disorder, you may have difficulty following directions that have multiple steps. You may have difficulty understanding your supervisor or coworkers if they speak to you when multiple conversations are taking place. You may not notice your phone is ringing, or missing important calls. You may make silly mistakes with numbers, and you may be very reliant on spell check to type out written communications. You may have trouble telling whether someone is angry, happy, excited, or bored.

Types of Auditory Processing Disorder in Adults

Auditory processing disorders show up in different ways in different people. They come in five types.

  • In prosodic auditory processing disorders, there is difficulty thinking while listening.
  • In disorders of auditory hypersensitivity, there is difficulty focusing on one conversation when other conversations are also taking place.
  • In disorders of auditory integration, there is difficulty matching the things you hear to the things you see.
  • In auditory disorders centered on phonetic decoding, the problem is keeping up with speech spoken at a normal speed.
  • In organizational deficit, there is difficulty with planning and physical organization.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the auditory processing disorders.

People who have the prosodic subtype of auditory processing disorder are good at absorbing facts and details but have challenges understanding the big picture. They have difficulties linking cause and effect. They may be unintentionally rude or tactless because they do not understand another speaker’s intentions.

People who deal with auditory hypersensitivity have problems focusing on a single conversation in a noisy environment. They may try so hard to hear a single speaker that they seem to ignore other people around them. They deal with a condition called Tolerance-Fading Memory. They have trouble remembering information because (1) they can’t hear it and (2) they can’t capture details. Because they don’t have enough practice using their memory, they have more limited working memory and poor long-term memory.

Auditory integration issues manifest themselves as a need to ask questions to clarify a task before starting it. They have trouble getting the “big picture.”

People who have issues with phonic decoding can’t use phonics to sound out words. They may have learned incorrect definitions for words, and they may not be able to distinguish words that sound alike. They have problems with spelling and grammar.

People with organizational deficits have problems getting things in the right sequence. They may prefer to communicate in single words or single sentences because they cannot organize longer communications. They may not be able to understand or create summaries of information, getting lost in details.

Having an auditory processing disorder does not mean someone has a low IQ or can’t learn. There are highly intelligent people who have this kind of disability. Having an auditory processing disorder usually means someone hasn’t had the full range of learning opportunities to master a language, and therapy is necessary.

It is possible to learn how to compensate for all of these auditory processing disorders with specific exercises that an audiology specialist can teach you.

The hearing specialists at Harbor Audiology can provide you with the diagnosis and care you need to compensate for an auditory processing disorder, no matter how long you have waited for treatment.  We have evening and Saturday appointments, and we can file claims with the VA and under all major insurance plans. Harbor Audiology has offices in Tacoma, Port Angeles, Sequim, Gig Harbor, Silverdale, and Bainbridge Island.  Request your appointment online today

Provided by Grason-Stadler