I apologize both retroactively and in advance to anyone who has ever or will ever speak with me. Because if we’ve ever had a conversation, you soon learn to expect constant requests to repeat your last sentence, often more than once.
If we’re talking on a one-on-one basis, I might never need to make sure I heard you. In a crowd or anywhere with even a little background noise? Lord help us both.
Welcome to life with auditory processing disorder.
For the unaware, auditory processing disorder is exactly what it says on the tin. I’m not deaf or physically hard-of-hearing. Instead, my brain up and refuses to process what I’m hearing half the time.
I’ll mix up similar sounding words. That’s always fun. Long lists of verbal directions? I’ll almost always be lost before I leave the station.
Lots of people with APD also have problems with spelling and reading, for whatever reason. Spelling was never my strong suit but reading’s not something I ever shied away from. But it’s all too easy for me to space out when reading, something I’m noticing more and more the older I get. It can take a couple brief skims after my first reading to actually understand what I’m looking at.
APD is considered a learning disorder. Think like dyslexia but purely in the ears. Which is precisely what my mother used to say when I was a kid.
The problem with APD? Little’s known about it. The causes of APD are debatable. Often, APD can be caused by outside factors, like chronic ear infections and head injuries. APD can even go hand-in-hand with other disorders like true-blue dyslexia or autism.
There’s no cure. But it’s not impossible to manage. If you have it, you eventually develop your own tips and tricks. I sometimes wear noise-filtering earbuds when I know I’m going to be somewhere with a lot of background noise, like a festival or on a plane.
Context is key too. I mishear things all the time. So if I’m with friends at a bar and I get asked if I know a cure, I’ll consider the context. Bar? Most likely they didn’t mean cure. Unless it was a weird conversation, I’d probably assume I was actually being asked for a beer.
APD life has its charms... I’ll rarely understand song lyrics so most of my favorite songs mean whatever I’d like them to.
And when I can understand you, that means I’ve already mentally worked over everything you’ve said like a copyright lawyer at a bootleg Disneyland. What does this mean for you? I’ll remember the details.
In the meantime, you can make a drinking game out of everything I mishear or mispronounce. Keep it minimal, I’m of interest in helping you avoid alcohol poisoning.