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Auditory Processing Disorder Makes My Brain Unique

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“What? What did you say?”

I often find myself repeating this phrase, especially when there is background noise, even if only a little.
I was diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) two years ago, as an adult, at the age of 24. I received this diagnosis from an audiologist who is trained specifically in processing disorders as well as hearing impairment.

Oddly enough, I had gone to the audiologist in the first place because I wondered if I was “losing my hearing.” I found myself struggling to understand verbal directions at my job, something that has never been natural for me. However, it suddenly seemed worse, prompting my desire to see a specialist about my hearing.

The audiologist ran several tests for hours, ultimately diagnosing me with not only a mild hearing loss, but also a mild to moderate auditory processing disorder.

Suddenly, some of my issues in work, school, and even social situations suddenly made sense to me. I already struggle with mental illness, including bipolar II disorder, anxiety, trauma, and OCD. I also struggle with inattentive type ADHD and mild sensory processing disorder. All of these conditions work together to cause not only distress in my life, but distraction.

It turns out that it is more than just being distracted for me, but it is also the way my brain processes auditory information, alongside slight hearing loss.

My auditory processing issues affect work in the sense that verbal directions often get lost on me. I do much better with emails than phone calls in that respect, although I can manage (and still enjoy phone calls with friends as my extroverted self). I also noticed that anxiety can greatly affect my processing — if I’m too anxious in a work setting, I find that these issues are exacerbated even more.

I’d say this learning disability has existed for me always, even if it wasn’t diagnosed until relatively recently. I was born 10 weeks premature (along with my twin sister) — apparently, prematurity and low birth weight can mean a higher chance of one having a learning disability and/or ADHD. I’m not sure if that’s the reason for many of my issues, but I do often wonder.

I grew up with academic success in elementary school. I was even told by a therapist a couple of years ago that I was “too successful to have ADHD” or a learning disability, for that matter. I have since then seen other professionals who believe I have these struggles, and that even if they appeared latent in childhood, it doesn’t mean I wasn’t struggling back then. The struggles have always been there — it’s simply that they have been exacerbated by the higher demands of adult life, as well as my comorbid conditions, like anxiety.

For about five months in 2019, I engaged in auditory processing therapy with my audiologist. It involved listening to sounds and words and repeating them back. We also worked on other neurodevelopmental challenges I have, such as directions/reading maps and mixing up left and right (challenges that are common with learning disabilities).
I recommend going to an audiologist if you have similar struggles, regardless of your current age. While I can trace back my struggles to early elementary school, it’s better late than never that I sought help.

I also like to think that auditory processing disorder simply makes my brain unique, wired in its own special way. Let’s end the shame around discussing learning disabilities. And let’s make it OK for adults to find help too. It’s never too late.

Getty image by Natali Mis.

Originally published: December 2, 2020
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