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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Should I get correctly diagnosed with auditory processing disorder even though I am an adult?

    I am the person who is always asking “what??”. I have had problems for as long as I remember (I'm now 30), the best I can describe it is that I hear the noise of people talking to me, I just can't understand what they are saying.

    I find that I need to be concentrating in order to catch what people are saying to me. It also helps if I can see their mouth, and if I know them. I have massive trouble with accents, any kind of background noise, and phones are terrible unless I know you well.

    Anyway I recently discovered auditory processing disorder and it sounds very much like me. I have had a number of hearing tests which were all normal, but as a child I was tested and sent to a specialist (not sure what type). Apparently it was concluded that I was just being difficult and only hearing what I wanted to.

    I'm not sure they would have considered this 25 years ago? Given that I'm an adult now and have a number of strategies to cope, is there any point following up to get properly tested?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 5


    Heather has over 16 years experience in the Audiology industry with a particular interest in providing but not limited to all services for Paediatrics from … View Profile


    From what you have described I would agree that you may have an Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) and believe it may be helpful for you to have it formerly diagnosed. An APD can be present in different forms so I suggest you locate an Audiologist that specialises in assessing for an APD and specifically assessses using the LiSN - S test which identifies a spatial processing disorder.

    You mention you already have coping strategies which is great however there may be some additional assistance you can get which will help you to hear better whenever competing noise is present.

  • 3


    Rachel Tosh

    Speech Pathologist

    Rachel is a speech pathologist specialising in speech, language, literacy and feeding therapy with more than 10 years of experience. Her aim is to help … View Profile

    Most questions I answer in my professional capacity but I will respond to this one from a personal perspective. As an adult studying speech pathology I also identified myself that I have many of the symptoms that indicate APD and a history of frequent and severe recurrent middle ear infections and perforations of the ear drum. My mother kept sending me for hearing (acuity) tests as a child and my results were always normal yet my listening skills were definitely not despite normal language/comprehension skills. I chose not to have a formal audiological assessment as I am comfortable with my difficulties and have learned how to work around them successfully. It is really important to discuss and explain your listening difficulties especially with family members. My husband used to get frustrated with me saying “what?” all the time or not listening to him because he was calling something out to me from the other end of the house or from behind a door. He thought I was ignoring him and choosing not to listen. He laughs now when I mishear things as some of the ways my brain interprets things is quite hilarious! He has also gotten really good at cueing me in when the kids are trying to get my attention when I am reading/listening to something and we have talked to our children about how mummy is not purposely ignoring them but her ears don't work so well when she is concentrating on something so if you need her attention you can touch her on the arm. 

  • 2


    Kathryn Penno


    Hello and Welcome, I founded the Hearing Collective to give clients one location, a collective of hearing healthcare services that are convenient and accessible. Hearing … View Profile

    Hi, I think getting a diagnosis depends on how you feel you are now coping with hearing speech clarity in background noise, your social situations, when watching movies or at work. As stated by Heather, there are a few tests that can help audiologists figure out what exactly may be the root of some of your ADP. 

    The earlier you can confidently manage APD the better you will be in noiser or tricky situations (e.g the pub or loud cafe). Coping strategies are useful, coupled with hearing technologies and smart devices, both can have an impact on what you learn to hear. Typically APD diagnosis shows normal peripheral hearing (the outer, middle and inner ear pathways are clear), the processing disorder is deemed central (along the hearing pathway). With consistent rehab and counselling, individuals can improve their AP.

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