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  • Writer's pictureBritt

ADHD and Audio Processing

Updated: Apr 2

"What? Huh? Can you repeat that, please? I can't hear, can you turn the subtitles on?"

Asking all these questions can get frustrating, not only for you, but for the people you are trying to communicate with. Ever since I was little, I would always ask questions like these. For the life of me, I could not understand or comprehend what people were saying. Maybe it was my mom asking me to wash the dishes or my dad asking if I had fed the dog, but it either sounded like gibberish or a sentence that made absolutely no sense.

Another thing that always happens to me is that someone will say something and I will ask "What?" but then my brain will catch up and I can answer them before they repeat themselves. Honestly, it's like my brain is just slow sometimes—or a lot of the time since I literally cannot understand a show or movie without the subtitles. Wouldn't it be nice if life came with a subtitle option? Like a switch in our brain or something that could transcribe the spoken words into text so that we didn't have to say "huh?" all the time.

When I got diagnosed with ADHD, I asked about ADHD and Audio Processing and she said a lot of ADHD folks struggle with this. It could be Audio Processing Disorder (APD) or it could just be the ADHD brain struggling to comprehend. But either way, it's a struggle to live like this.

Eventually, I learned to just nod or laugh but sometimes that backfired. One time someone was asking me a question and I just laughed. My friend was like, "You didn't hear what I said, did you?" Ugh, sooo embarrassing.

Or I'd ask two or three times for them to repeat themselves, but then I felt embarrassed again so I'd just nod and laugh, hoping they weren't saying anything serious or asking me a question.

I never understood why I couldn't seem to hear or comprehend things as easily as my friends did, but I guess I figured that out now. No matter if it's APD or just ADHD, at least I know I haven't been going deaf since a young age and I know now that I'm not just stupid. That was a big worry for me and one of the main reasons I got tested for ADHD. I felt so stupid and slow sometimes.

It can be hard for me to follow conversations, follow instructions unless they're written down, and listen to music. I love listening to music but unless I'm reading the lyrics or eventually memorize the correct ones, I will either not understand a word they are saying or completely mishear words and sentences.

Sometimes, this issue can turn out to be pretty funny actually. I've learned to laugh at myself for hearing things wrong and my friends and family find it kind of funny too. I can still get pretty frustrated by this issue, but life is easier and more fun if you just laugh at the mistakes instead of putting yourself down for them as I used to do.

For example, when someone says, "Can you pass the salt?" and I look at them in confusion because I hear, "Can you pose the scene?" I throw out a little jig and pose only for them to look at me weirdly.

Or someone says, "Look at cows napping!" and I hear, "Look at those cheese nips!". Here's another one, "I'm nervous about the job interview." My brain hears, "I'm nerve-gassing the innertube."

Cow on a meadow looking into the camera

Don't ask me—I have no idea what that means either, but that's what my brain is like and it's a weird brain to live with. But it makes people laugh—and I like making people laugh because that means they like me (most of the time) and I like it when people like me. I'm a very hardcore people pleaser, so it feels good when people are laughing with me and liking me.

There are no cures to this kind of understanding issue since it isn't a hearing loss problem. The message is getting mixed up in our brains and causing the issue. The best way to deal with it is to remind yourself to be patient with your brain (she's trying her hardest, I promise) and to remind yourself not to be too hard on her. You aren't stupid or slow, you're brain is just getting signals mixed.

I've learned to read lips and read expressions pretty well. This will help me try and figure out what they said and gauge what my reaction should be. This works well when I don't feel like asking what they've said or when I'm watching a show and miss the subtitles. This will even help when you're just listening to someone rant and you just need to offer that listening ear and a comforting smile or hug (or indignation if they're mad about something). Body language and micro-expressions are great things to learn to read—they've definitely helped me and my brain when we aren't sure what they said or how to react.

Remind others to be patient with you as well. You may need to ask several times and you may need those subtitles every time you're watching something together—even if they don't like subtitles. I need subtitles or else I can't understand what they are saying and I will lose focus pretty quickly.

Ask your boss for written instructions since you can follow those a lot better (or write out your own instructions once you figure out how to do something, just in case you forget). People shouldn't assume that everyone else is like them and can follow spoken instructions—a kind, understanding boss will make accommodations!

And most importantly, remember to have fun and learn to laugh at yourself and your brain's mistakes. My friends like hearing what I heard so we can share a laugh. It makes me feel less ostracized and strange when we laugh about it together and then continue with them explaining what they really did say.

This is what my dear brain is like even when she's trying really hard to figure it out for me. She struggles, but I'm learning to love her anyway—not despite her struggles but because of them (this goes for me personally too, if you can't tell the brain is me even though I call it "her"). It can be a struggle sometimes to give yourself grace and love, but you deserve it! Come along with me on this journey :). Live, laugh, love, Ravens, especially when it's hard. It's a cheesy quote but it works. Maybe it'll be my new signing-off thing - let me know what you think.

For the suicide and crisis lifeline, dial 988.

— Live well and laugh often, Ravens. Signing off for now, Hyperactive Raven <3

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