Challenging the “Normal Hearing” Myth
When it comes to hearing, the results of a standard hearing test might not tell the whole story. The truth is, normal hearing test results do not always guarantee normal hearing. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is a condition that often goes undetected in traditional hearing tests, and it’s easy to overlook. In fact, approximately 12% of adults with normal pure-tone thresholds report significant hearing difficulties, which are frequently dismissed as insignificant issues when the results of a hearing test are “normal.”
An audiogram, which is the standard hearing test, assesses your ability to hear different pitches, but it doesn’t examine how your brain processes sound. APD, on the other hand, stems from faulty neural pathways connecting your ears to the auditory processing centers in your brain. This affects the brain’s abiltiy to analyze and process sound effectively. Consequently, APD can have a profound impact on your ability to recognize subtle sound differences, comprehend and process speech efficiently, filter out background noises, and retain information you’ve heard.
In many cases, APD can mimic hearing loss and have adverse effects on communication, learning, and social interactions, especially in noisy or multi-talker environments. So, if you’re an adult with a normal or near-normal audiogram who struggles to understand speech, particularly when there’s background noise, you might be dealing with a hidden auditory processing disorder.
Testing Beyond the Surface for Real Insights
Auditory processing evaluations go beyond standard hearing tests, assessing various auditory skills to examine your brain’s ability to process sounds effectively. Our comprehensive evaluations are designed to pinpoint your specific processing deficits, providing crucial insights that guide the development of personalized treatment plans. It’s important to note that auditory training can benefit individuals of all ages, regardless of their intellectual abilities, co-existing conditions, or audiogram results.
Adults with APD often experience:
- Difficulty understanding conversation.
- Challenges with conversation in noisy environments, such as restaurants.
- Trouble dividing attention (e.g., talking on the phone while tuning out background noise).
- Difficulty comprehending fast speech.
- Struggles with following long conversations.
- Difficulty understanding without relying on lipreading or facial cues.
- Challenges with unfamiliar accents.
- Preference for high television volume and/or subtitles.
- Difficulty with teleconferences.
- Feeling exhausted from straining to follow conversations.
- Needing more time to process information heard compared to others.
- Difficulty remembering information long enough to write it down.
- Misinterpreting the intent behind a person’s comments, such as sarcasm or tone of voice.
- Easily distracted by sounds that others don’t notice, like tapping or pen clicking.
- Struggles with understanding music lyrics or distinguishing between melodies.
- Challenges with reading comprehension, both currently and in their earlier years.
You can now complete our free online Adult Auditory Performance Scale to assess self-perceived listening abilities, across multiple areas. This is a useful tool for evaluating self-perceived hearing problems to determine if you are at risk for a hidden auditory processing disorder. Click Here.
If you find yourself experiencing these difficulties in speech comprehension, especially in noisy settings, it is imperative to look beyond a basic audiological evaluation to uncover the source of this “hidden” hearing problem. An APD evaluation administers a battery of tests to assess the integrity of your central auditory nervous system. If weaknesses are identified, it’s not too late to seek help. Adults can benefit from deficit-specific auditory processing therapy and hearing assistive technology, such as low-gain hearing aids for auditory processing disorder and/or remote microphone systems. We also offer in-person therapy, teletherapy, and online therapy programs that can be beneficial. Feel free to contact us for more information and assistance.