Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Auditory Processing Disorder - What Does That Mean?

Hello people of the interwebz! You're probably here right now because you read the He Said/She Said article in Girls Guide to the Galaxy and were either surprised to learn I have a hearing impairment or were curious and wanted to learn more about it but never asked. THANK YOU for coming!

I'll skip the boring medical chat and keep it all in layman's terms. I have an auditory processing disorder. Having an auditory processing disorder is classified as central hearing loss, but it's really a neurological problem. Let me offer a moment of silence so you can make jokes about me being dropped on my head. :) What it means is that I hear sound, but it doesn't always make sense to me - it gets garbled on the way to my brain. Remember the teacher on the Peanuts? Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-Wa!

I got a diagnosis when I was about 30. I had been suspicious that something was wrong with my hearing and weary of defending myself to those who thought I had "selective hearing". Finally, I got frustrated enough and persistent enough to make my way to a specialist where I got some answers. A shout out to the fabulous audiologists at St. John's Mercy and a special thanks to Richard Hogan who finally put the pieces together for me. After taking a special type of hearing test where I had to respond to words instead of beeps it was crystal clear. I failed the test miserably, without visual cues and context clues my listening comprehension is horrid. I'm missing some sounds completely and others just sound like mush.

After some tears of relief to have a diagnosis and then some tears of sadness because I had a diagnosis, we started talking treatment. The bad news - hearing aids won't help me, it will just make the mushy sounds louder, not clearer which is a drag because my disability is significant. I remember the audiologist saying, "I have NO idea how you got through school." The good news - my disorder is not degenerative and will likely remain stable. My job - learn to cope.

Here's how I do it - I use a combination of visual cues (namely lip reading), context clues and the sounds I do hear to make sense of it all. As a means of survival I naturally developed mad lip reading skills and as long as I have some context I can usually fill in blanks. In lecture classes I have a nifty gadget to help me so that the speaker is louder than everything else, which helps me understand better - they wear an FM transmitter and a lapel mic and I wear a listening device that looks really similar to a hearing aid or one of those cool ear pieces secret agents wear. Naturally, I gravitate away from places where hearing is difficult for me or make sure I position myself so I can do a lot of lip reading. I have to admit, the latter is mentally exhausting and I tend to avoid those scenarios whenever possible. When in noisy environments, like a group of people in loud restaurant I go in to it with no expectation of being able to hear more than the person across from me. Some people project their voices better than others. I have an affinity for the loud-mouthed type since they are louder than everyone else I don't miss much - love you Dave and Dean - your my favorite big-mouthed friends.

Bottom line - if I can't see you, chances are I can't hear you either. My work pals found this very helpful when planning my recent surprise graduation party. They spent a half an hour in the cube next to me discussing plans and I didn't hear a word of it! Wanna tell a secret without me hearing, just wait for me to turn away. If you saw me at the store and called my name 10 times and I didn't respond - I wasn't ignoring you, I just didn't hear you! I'm Senorita Friendly - I'd NEVER ignore anyone on purpose. My bff Paula's husband Dave thought for the longest time I just ignored him sometimes - I was horrified to learn that! If we're in a public place and I'm "ignoring" you - tap me on the shoulder and get my attention. Please. If you're having a life crisis and want to get together to talk - let's grab some coffee somewhere quiet. The less noise to sort out, the better!

So that's the scoop kids. Thanks for taking the time to read!

XOXO
Hol

1 comment:

Mark Pennington said...

A memorable list of context clue strategies is found at http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/reading/how-to-double-vocabulary-acquisition-from-reading-part-iii/