Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) (AKA Central Auditory Processing Disorder) can be a disorder in its own right, or it can be as a symptom or part of another condition. Not every autistic person has APD, but it is quite common amongst autistic people.
So what is APD. Well it is a difficulty processing sounds in various environments and ways.
It affects my ability to:
- work out where a sound is coming from
- distinguish similar sounds from each other
- Understand speech, especially with lots of background noise, or a few conversations going on at the same time in the group of people I am with.
- Processing things slower and therefore hearing them later and not understanding them straight away
- Remember instructions I have been told
I’ll go through my experiences of the ways APD affects me.
With working out where a sound is coming from that can be as simple as trying to work out where a phone is when it is vibrating, to working out where the siren is coming from. So loudness does not make it easier to work it out, I just take a lot longer to work out where a sound is coming from.
I think the words ‘three’ and ‘free’ sound the same, context of a sentence can help me to distinguish which has been used, but numbers which sounds similar, like ‘seventy’ and seventeen’ are harder to work out even with context.
If there is background noise, it all merges into one loud noise and so even if someone is sat talking to me right next to me I often cannot understand them with a lot of background noise. This can be the same if I am with a group of people, even in a quiet place, if there are a few conversations going on, I cannot understand anything and can’t join in with any of them, it is like there are several foreign languages being spoken at once and I am trapped in the middle not understanding any of them.
With background noise, wearing noise cancelling headphones can help a bit, but it also means the people talking to me are quieter too and I need to often face them and watch them speak, so I know they’re speaking, but even then it can be very difficult to communicate.
I avoid noisy places, because I just cannot communicate properly and don’t understand what is going on, therefore feel lost and confused and alone, plus I am over sensitive to noise with my sensory processing disorder.
I will often have heard a voice, but will say ‘pardon’ to someone, they start to repeat them self and then before they have finished repeating them self I answer them. This isn’t me being rude or annoying, I didn’t understand what was said originally, so say pardon, but before the person has finished repeating them self I might have processed what was said and therefore understood it. Essentially my brain takes a longer time to process what was being said, even though I heard a voice.
Same with other sorts of noises. The other night I was jumping at fireworks (I hate fireworks they can really trigger my C-PTSD for various reasons and make me very jumpy) but my partner said I was jumping/flinching several seconds after the bang, but to me it was instant. Again my brain has processed the sound at a slower rate.
Verbal instructions are very difficult (often impossible at times) for me to follow, as I am trying to process and understand the first instruction whilst I am meant to be knowing what to do and doing it.
So if I ask you to repeat yourself several times I am not being rude, if I say pardon but then start answering I am not being annoying, if I say no to going out with you to some where noisy don’t be offended, if I am wearing noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs then don’t be offended they are helping me, but I still might need to ask you to repeat things, but no taking off my headphones/earbuds will not help me hear you.
My brain simply processes sounds at a different rate and way to people without APD, it is exhausting trying to keep up at times, sometimes I need a break from the conversation to give myself a rest, often I won’t go to noisy places, or avoid places at busy times. Please remember I am not being rude.