Hearing problem? Or more ADHD?

Could the hearing problem I’ve had all my life, which I’ve never had a satisfactory diagnosis for, be part of my ADHD?

two girls whispering

I have a hearing problem. I tell people I’m “partially deaf” rather than “hard of hearing” because the latter makes people speak louder, which doesn’t actually help.

I have no problem knowing that there is sound: my issues are working out what the various sounds are, where they are coming from, how to separate them and how to interpret them.

I’ve developed coping strategies to deal with my hearing problems. I will ask people I’m with, “Sorry, did you say something?” when I’ve heard a noise that might be speech, so they don’t think I’m ignoring them.

I struggle to understanding speech when there’s background noise – especially when the background noise is other people talking. So I will slowly walk round someone as they’re talking to me to try and find a point where my brain hears their voice separately.

If I go to the cinema (which is rare because I need subtitles (links to Metro article)), I will sit on one side rather than the middle, so I can focus on sounds coming from just one set of speakers. And to listen to music, I set my headphones to “mono” so I have sounds in just one ear.

ADHD is an executive function disorder (links to WebMD) – the part of the brain affected deals with paying attention, switching focus, managing time and remembering. So it seemed feasible my hearing problem could be connected.

I searched for “hearing problems ADHD”.

I got over 12 million hits. And a possible diagnosis: Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) (links to NHS Choices) – which is caused by the brain not being able to process sounds in the normal way.

Rather than being a definitive diagnosis, ADHD is an umbrella term for a variety of neurodevelopmental issues. The executive function issues at the centre of each diagnosis can produce a range of different symptoms in each person diagnosed.

So although APD can be a diagnosis separate from ADHD, it can also form part of (Links to AOHL charity) an ADHD diagnosis. And my ADHD diagnosis might include APD while someone else’s might not.

Digging further, I discovered that hearing problems can effect executive function (links to CID charity) development in neurotypical (links to Oxford Dictionary) children. Hearing problems can delay the development of complex language skills – one of the main tools we use in executive function development.

So it could very well be that I had APD first and that these processing issues were the cause of my other ADHD symptoms. I won’t ever be able to answer this chicken/egg question, of course. But being able to put a possible name to my hearing problem is helpful in itself.

Not only am I able to understand myself better (which is why I’m researching my diagnosis in the first place) but I will be able to develop new coping strategies to assist me based on the advice I’ve found.

Rather than being referred for an official APD diagnosis – which would cost NHS money and wouldn’t give me access to any assistance/services that could help me – I’ve simply had “auditory processing difficulties” added to my ADHD diagnosis.

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