49 year-old with listening difficulties leading to stress and anxiety.
“It is now one week since I put on my headphones for the last time to perform a simple routine that I had followed for the last year and a half.
The process is simple enough – listen to a track from a CD, lasting between 10 to 15 minutes, once a day. The purpose of this exercise is much more complex, however – to “re-programme” the way my brain processes auditory information.
Why did I undertake this programme, and has it produced the expected benefit? To answer the first question I need to go back even further.
I had always struggled with some aspects of hearing and listening. For example, it was often difficult for me to make out the words that people were saying. Also, I found it very difficult to follow verbal instructions and seemed to be more distracted by background noise than most other people. Over the years I developed strategies to cope with these, but would periodically get caught out, particularly if I was tired or caught unawares. Probably more importantly, I found that it difficult to relax, always feeling I needed to be on guard.
I also had problems around coordination that let me to the INPP, who tested me and found that I had what they call neuro-development delays. That is, certain primitive reflexes that should disappear in early childhood were still present, interfering with the development of smoother and more sophisticated movement and, strange as it may seem, thinking.
I followed their programme for a year and achieved some remarkable results. During the course of this process they also tested my auditory processing. These tests confirmed that I had difficulties in this area as well. As a result, and on their recommendation, when I completed the programme I contacted Camilla Leslie who specialises in this area.
Camilla undertook a series of more detailed tests that confirmed that I did have some significant auditory processing problems. The thing that sticks most strongly in my mind was a chart she produced showing how each ear processes sounds at different frequencies. My chart showed the different lines crossing and re-crossing each other. For the first time I had in front of me a picture that showed the way sounds seemed to bounce around in my head!
The overall picture was clear – just how hard I had to work simply to process and make sense of what I was hearing. This left little spare capacity for thinking more deeply about what people were talking about.
Having established this, Camilla prepared a CD tailored to my particular difficulties. The process thereafter was quite simple. I listened to a track every day and went back every three months to be review progress and be re-tested.
Fortunately due to the INPP work I was already prepared for what I was going to experience. Firstly that this was not a quick fix – the changes were going to take some time to manifest themselves. Secondly, things typically got worse before getting better. This is not surprising with adults, as part of the process is unpicking some of the coping strategies you have developed before the improvements can become established.
However, even by the first review meeting changes were noticeable, and after 12 months there had been some dramatic changes. On Camilla’s suggestion we carried on for a further 6 months to ensure that the changes were fully embedded. This proved to be good advice as improvements continued and felt much more consolidated over this period.
What are the main differences? In summary:
- The difficulty in catching what people are saying has pretty much gone
- I am much less distracted by background noise. I still have some sensitivity, but the hearing tests have shown that I am generally a bit more sensitive than average so it no longer bothers me.
- I can make out the words in songs while hearing the tune. I can also make out the different instruments and parts. For someone who has always liked music, this has been a revelation!
- Forgetting what I am about to say rarely happens now. As public speaking is part of my job this has significantly reduced anxiety levels.
- Not being able to “find” the right words to use used to be a significant problem. Now I seem to be much the same as most other people.
- Difficulty in structuring my thoughts while writing used to often prove a nightmare. Now I find that I can much more easily differentiate between structuring my thoughts and articulating them. The thoughts don’t “run away” in the way they used to.
- Noticing only one thing at a time – clearing up sound problems has created more mental capacity or space
- I am much less prone to ramble on and on! I find I am naturally more focused and to the point.
- My “inner voice” used to often dominate my mind. It feels much more integrated now.
- I am able to consistently remember many more words that I hear or read – for example if I am copying information from books.
Overall, I am much less anxious and more relaxed in normal situations. It is hard to describe what how different it is to just be able to hear things and not worry about it. Perhaps the best analogy is when you are driving in foggy conditions and the constant attention you have to pay to the road ahead. The relief you feel when it finally clears it the kind of feeling I have had as a result of this process.
Would I go through it if I had known at the start what I know now? The answer it a resounding yes, my only caveat to any adults considering this is to ensure that you are prepared to exercise some patience and persistence.”