Say what? (Auditory processing issues)


There’s a situation I’ve been in too many times to count, including when I was younger, and people thought I was simply ignoring them because we didn’t know any different.

They would say something to me and my response would be “what?” …. like I didn’t hear them.

And then, a few seconds later, I would exclaim “OH!” just as they started to repeat themselves — typically with irritation — while I would then reply to whatever they’ve said… albeit just a tad delayed, when they themselves hadn’t even finished repeating their comment/question.

This, everyone, is one of the hallmarks of my auditory processing issues.

No, I wasn’t ignoring them. I heard them. Their words reached my ears and they went inside, but it was my brain… my brain that couldn’t process what they said fast enough.

For me, the words were instantly lost, which is why I said “what” but that’s the thing, isn’t it? I heard them, the words weren’t lost, they were just being dissected by my brain as it tried to understand what they’ve said, then it had to put the words back together again in order for me to reply.

What feels like forever when I don’t reply isn’t more than 10 or 15 seconds (and sometimes 30 seconds for more complicated answers) but for some reason, even taking a couple seconds to reply seems to irritate neurotypical people who don’t understand I’m not able to reply instantly to anything anybody says even if I know them well.

I’m not slow. I’m not any awful word you can think of to describe someone who doesn’t live up to a certain standard of social interaction. What I am is someone with auditory processing issues who just needs a freaking moment to hear what you’ve said, allow my brain to put it into a message it can understand, and formulate the reply expected… typically, a reply my brain has had to acquire over the years through trial and error or social watching.

Another issue I have with this is that I don’t know someone is talking to me if they don’t explicitly address me first. So, say there’s just two of us in a room. I’m doing my thing, they’re doing theirs, and all the sudden they start speaking. I will hear the words but none of them will register because they didn’t get my attention before speaking. This is usually an issue with close relationships because many “strangers” will not start speaking to me without having my attention first anyway (usually, not always).

Have I been officially diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder? No. However, I have most of the signs, which include: having difficulty following conversations or processing what others say then coming up with a response quickly, knowing where a sound is coming from, remember spoken instructions (especially if they contain multiple steps), and understanding what people say if more than one person is speaking or if I’m in a loud place. For some people, they might experience difficulties listening to music; I only have this with some forms of music, but not all.

So, I tend to make this clear to people who meet me, and sometimes I have to remind people I already know to get my attention first before saying whatever they want/need to say to me.

How about you? Do you have auditory issues? How do you deal with them?

About the author

An Autistic Gal

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