Now, while the physical process of hearing is very distinct from the brain’s process of listening, they certainly share the same problem of being taken for granted.
Because much like hearing, many of us greatly underestimate our dependence on our brain’s cognitive functions to filter out noise.
Here are just some examples of where this ability is crucial:
- Paying attention when someone is speaking.
- Understanding instructions without repetition.
- Responding promptly when being called.
- Being able to focus on tasks in noisy environments.
- Sleeping soundly at night despite random sounds outside.
There is not much of a struggle to accomplish any of these for a majority of people. However, there does come a point (whether through old age or certain brain difficulties) that some of us will soon start to find it more stressful to listen and understand everything that is being communicated to us through sound.
These are the subtler signs of auditory processing disorder.
What makes these signs a bit risky is that they can be easily attributed to less serious factors (such as rooms just being noisy, lack of interest, or even rudeness). And if these signs manifest at a very young age, the risk becomes even greater. Overlooking the possibility of APD could accidentally prevent a possible early intervention for a child. This means a higher chance of delays in speech, learning and other crucial cognitive skills!
Thus, it is important to pay very close attention. If you know someone who might be experiencing these subtle signs on a repeated (if not chronic) basis, then they should definitely consider a diagnosis.
Sign #1: Increasing dislike for loud environments.
People with APD find it increasingly difficult than most people to start listening when they are in a fairly busy environment. Even something as seemingly light like an open-air cafe, a classroom or regular office noise is enough to induce headaches and stress.
This is because their brain has a weakened capacity for filtering and focusing on specific sounds. Take note that listening is when you activate the pathways of your brain to focus on specific sounds that convey important information (such as words). Hearing, on the other hand, is passive and picks up all sounds regardless if you actually care about them.
Those with APD expend far more energy in their brains to identify these important sounds from the bombardment of noise all around them.
Sign #2: Negative reactions to certain tone of voice or loud sounds.
Another feature of APD is misunderstanding subtle shifts in tone. People with APD can also be highly sensitive to louder sounds (regardless if it is spoken or not). Sudden noises or raised voices may have a tendency to frighten or at least shake up people with the condition.
This can be very evident when meeting individuals who feel more comfortable being spoken to in softer tones and dislike animated conversations. They may have a reputation among friends to be very sensitive and distressed when hearing voices at a higher volume.
Sign #3: Very poor, unusual speech patterns.
Lastly, APD is known to also affect the way a person develops their speaking skills based on how they hear speech. After all, listening is generally how toddlers pick up their very first words even without any formal education.
APD impacts the ability to note subtle differences in syllables and other similar sounds, causing people with the condition to develop unusual tics when they talk (such when their speech sounds slurry or their intonation seems quite off).
Again, it bears repeating that these signs can be a good cause for concern when they become a somewhat chronic part of a person’s behaviour be they a child or an adult. APD is often tied to individuals who eventually struggle to communicate, learn and socialize because it’s still a lesser known disability. If you start seeing signs of this, best consult a professional right away for a proper diagnosis.
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