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Fun with auditory processing!

February 1, 2013

A rather good video I ran across a while back, which is very relevant here. Not too surprisingly, I don’t have the spoons available to try to transcribe it right now, and if you really want to confuse yourself, turn on the automatic captioning. 😐

Phone phobia and auditory processing disorder: My letter to my cousin Scott

I could really identify with most of what Mia Sansom was saying here, including this complicating keeping in touch with family and friends, a lot of whom don’t really understand why it’s a problem. (Especially since I’m living on the other side of the Atlantic; though I have been trying to keep in touch more through e-mail and social media, it doesn’t always work out so well.) I haven’t worked in a call center, but I’m even less fond of trying to use the phone after dealing with (a) a stalker, and (b) my grandmother with serious OCD, calling like 30 times a day in past. (And my mom got overwhelmed and refused to answer the phone half the time, so I had to; otherwise she’d make it ring nonstop until someone picked up and confirmed that nobody was lying dead in a ditch or anything.)  “I get scared when the telephone rings…”

Luckily, I’m able to avoid personal voice calls almost entirely these days, and our landline rarely rings because my husband also hates talking on the phone. He is the only person I am willing to try voice calls with, anymore, under anything but emergency circumstances (and sometimes not even then). Nobody else even has my mobile number right now.

Before watching this, I hadn’t really connected my not being able to remember what happened in movies I know I’ve seen to just not hearing what’s going on in the first place. (Captioning does help immensely, now that I know to use it and assuming it’s available, but yeah.) That probably has a lot to do with my relative lack of interest in movies and TV, in spite of being a fairly visually oriented person. She also goes into how having to focus so hard on understanding what the other person is saying can complicate conversations, so that you have trouble getting out or even remembering what you wanted to say. Depending on the day, this can also be a significant problem in person for me, especially if there is any kind of background noise or the need to concentrate on anything else up to and including walking. (Ah, the joys of living in an urban area!)  Another reason I prefer written communication, whenever possible.

Auditory processing problems are something I’ve written about before, but I’ve been needing to think a lot more about how much this can complicate daily living. Not too surprisingly, I haven’t yet managed to even get the registration paperwork filled out and turned in to the dental anesthetic clinic, so Horrible Tooth has been acting up periodically and the inflammation has been screwing with that ear. (I really need to try to get more antibiotics, but on top of the general dental fear I don’t want to maybe get browbeaten by the dentist down the street who was pushing pretty hard to let her do the root canal without sedation. 😦 When I’m really not able to listen and respond appropriately.) It’s a much longer-term problem with eustachian tube blockage on that side (which probably helped make the CAPD that much worse), to the point of some hearing loss from just the blocked ear along with repeated eardrum ruptures, but it’s just ridiculous right now. I’m also dizzy and listing to one side like I’m drunk.*

The pain and being sick from infection aren’t helping, but just having the ear pretty much totally blocked up is scrambling things to the point that I can barely make out what anyone is saying in person. I may make out a few words, but the rest of it just whooshes by. I’m aware that they’ve said something, but can’t even process it to the point that it sounds like garbled word salad or something from Damn You Autocorrect; it’s just gone. This has happened before, but it kinda sucks every time.

So, of course, when I’m having a particular problem, I need to deal with the bank. Before Christmas, my debit card got blocked. I assumed at first that it was the usual problem with false positives from HSBC’s fraud detection system again, but not this time. After a painful eternity on the phone, it turned out that the card number apparently turned up on a list circulating, though that was caught before any fraudulent charges showed up on the account. So, I needed a replacement card, which did not arrive. OK, time to try to arrange to pick up another replacement at a branch location, because I don’t trust another one mailed out to arrive. (Mr. U has run into that problem enough times that he insists they send it for physical pickup, starting out–and, yes, we’ve both needed replacement cards multiple times through no fault of our own. I was coping poorly enough on the phone to even remember to request that it be delivered to a bank branch.)

I managed to get an account problem handled through their online banking secure messaging system when I was in the US before, so I tried that. With about the result I’d expected:

With voice calls (over a crappy connection to an overseas call center, for that much easier deciphering) once again offered as the only way of handling something important. Helpful! Why would I ever hesitate to contact y’all?! *headdesk*

OK, I partly needed to rant because this is a very inconvenient and frustrating situation, but it’s also a big accessibility problem for me and no doubt many other people. The insistence on voice calls makes it that much more difficult for me to handle lots of kinds of business, including trying to make appointments for medical/dental care, on top of all the little daily “what?!” moments.

When I’m already upset or overloaded, for whatever reason, voice calls become next to impossible. It doesn’t help in this situation that, while I’m extremely glad that Mr. U understands and doesn’t keep getting impatient and dismissive, he also can’t call. (Not that this would help with the bank anyway, unfortunately.) Not surprisingly, the auditory processing weirdness is also one of the big reasons I have had such big trouble communicating and have ended up getting bulldozed, subjected to unwanted/totally inappropriate treatments, and/or treated like I must be stupid so much in medical settings, by professionals and/or my mother who was basically serving as an interpreter with no idea what appropriate boundaries even were. (Pick any combo there, it’s unlikely to end well.) Which increases the anxiety, and decreases ability to communicate including by picking up the phone to make an appointment in the first place.

At least I do understand what the problem is now, and (mostly) recognize it as just as valid a barrier to effective communication and daily functioning in some areas as being deaf or hard of hearing. Doesn’t really matter where the difficulty hearing is coming from, ultimately, if you can’t hear what people are saying to you.

I finally went ahead and installed TCPhoneText on my Nexus 7, even though I haven’t yet managed to try using it to get in touch with HSBC’s textphone number and get another freaking functioning debit card. (Most banks, insurance companies, etc. resist dealing with customers over relay services for “privacy” reasons, apparently, which makes things that much more complicated.) While I’ve recognized for some time that using non-voice telecommunication methods was maybe a good idea, disability shame and the idea that maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough have kept getting in the way of actually doing it. Besides all the complaints from people who do need to use TDD/Textphone/Minicom about the comparatively crappy service, if you can even get anybody to pick it up at businesses.

But, it’s better than just not being able to get in touch with them through the only medium they’re willing to accept. Hopefully, I can get up the courage to try it pretty soon. It’s frustrating, but kicking myself over not already having done it will not help get a functioning debit card back.

I had meant to include a link I found interesting, with commentary, about the combo of being a visually oriented learner with auditory processing problems and how poorly this fits with common formal educational approaches. I used to assume I wasn’t very visual, because I have trouble describing what I’m seeing a lot of the time, but that just kinda comes with the territory. But, I ended up ranting more than I’d intended, and am tired. 😉 So, I’ll just throw in the very appropriate video I linked to earlier, of an old favorite song.

L7 – One More Thing (lyrics)

“I’m drowning from too much stuff”


* Which can turn even more darkly funny, when your ear is blocked up from allergies. Especially here in the UK, where they put everything that can possibly make you drowsy behind the counter. Stagger up to the pharmacy in search of more antihistamines, get extra pointed warnings not to combine the meds with alcohol. 😀

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymus permalink
    February 3, 2013 5:16 am

    Since almost no one I have to interact with in real life has heard of CAPD, I usually say I’m hard of hearing in the hopes that they will understand why I can’t use the phone. Usually, these hopes are too optimistic. I remember trying to get my ISP to fix a problem I was having with my internet. I went in person so that I could read lips. I wrote down all that diagnostic information they would need (I’m techy enough to know what information they needed). And I went in and explained my problem. “You need to call our tech support line.” “I can’t call the tech support line because I’m hard of hearing.” “Our tech support line is offered in $list-of-languages.” “That’s great, but I still deaf in those other languages too.”

    Eventually, I got my landlady to do it. The only way I can communicate with my bank is by having a relative call and pretend to be me, which is something I’m increasingly uncomfortable with doing.

    I wish we had relay in my country. I would get a TDD.

    I also hate the phone because I will do anything I can get to get off the phone as fast as possible, and saying “no” and “I can’t hear you” doesn’t do that. Saying I can’t hear you makes them repeat their message, equally garbled by the sounds of the tram in the background. Saying “no” makes them produce more speech, probably trying to convince me to say yes. So the best strategy to get off the phone is saying yes to whatever it is, even though I will get off the phone having no idea what I’ve agreed to and if reminded later I’ll feel bad and wish I hadn’t agreed to whatever it was. But it’s the only way I know to make some stop making noises at me that I can’t understand what they’re saying. I try to answer it at all because it’s annoying. I figure if it’s really important they can send me an e-mail or text message and then I can think about what they have said and what I want to say back before responding.

    • urocyon permalink*
      February 9, 2013 2:11 pm

      So the best strategy to get off the phone is saying yes to whatever it is, even though I will get off the phone having no idea what I’ve agreed to and if reminded later I’ll feel bad and wish I hadn’t agreed to whatever it was. But it’s the only way I know to make some stop making noises at me that I can’t understand what they’re saying.

      You too, then? 😦 I would not be at all surprised if this is a common way of dealing with things. It really can make a lot of problems worse, and it’s sometimes hard not to kick myself over that. But, we do what we have to do; shame it’s necessary at all, though.

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