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YARNLADY's avatar

Is there such a thing as slow hearing?

Asked by YARNLADY (44823points) July 20th, 2012

Sometimes when people talk to me, their words sort of play out in my head like the computer screen does, revealing a little at a time until it’s all there.

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15 Answers

hearkat's avatar

As we get older, the brain’s processing centers slow down. Speech and language are very complex, and if you have even a slight age-ralated decrease in hearing, and the brain has only partial information to work with. Add the noisy world in which we live and it’s a wonder that we can communicate at all.

Some people have difficulty with auditory processing even in childhood, and auditory processing skills can be tested.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Probably. After two severe ear infections back to back, I’m mostly deaf in my left ear, and it feels like I’m slow to hear/process things sometimes. Like, someone will say something, and I’ll cock my head and think or say, “What?” then a few seconds later, I’ll finally hear it correctly and say, “Oh, got it.” It’s weird.

Blueroses's avatar

Great question! I don’t even think it’s age-related (if I understand your intent) but a matter of how you best process information. I run into this often at school and at work. I process written information very quickly, but there’s a delay (and sometimes delete) if that same information is given to me orally.

I hated when a professor would go over test questions without giving us the test back to look at. I can’t relate the spoken word to what I have written down previously. If I have the text in front of me, I can process the oral instantly.

hearkat's avatar

@Blueroses – As I noted, some people (myself included) have inherent difficulties with auditory processing. Some have auditory processing disorders to a degree that impacts their ability to learn reading via the traditional phonics techniques. As with all skills, there is a broad range in variability among the population – even within those who are able to function in the traditional classroom setting. In my perfect world, children would be grouped by how they learn, so the teachers could design lesson plans and assess progress according the modality that is best-suited for the child.

I was admittedly hasty in answering this specific question, as we were about to head out for dinner. I used my knowledge of YarnLady’s approximate age and inferred that this is something she is noticing more in recent months, which is why I suggested that it may well be age related. Other things can also impact auditory processing abilities – especially neurological conditions or brain injuries, but I didn’t mention them, since she made no reference to illness or injury or a sudden change in this ability.


@WillWorkForChocolate – I don’t recall whether we’ve discussed your condition in other posts. I hope that you have had your ears and hearing thoroughly evaluated and are undergoing or planning treatment to restore or at least improve your hearing. As noted, even mild hearing loss reduces the amount of speech sounds the brain receives, so the language processing centers have to work even harder to make sense when an imperfect signal is received. Having an imbalance of hearing results in even greater difficuly when listening in the presence of noise or trying to follow a group conversation. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss it further.

Blueroses's avatar

@hearkat You didn’t exactly note that. Maybe you were thinking it, but it wasn’t clear in your reply. @YARNLADY did not say this was a recent development. You might very well be correct, and I’m sure you have the expertise to back up your response.

I took the question as it stands. It makes sense to me how she states it. Translating what is said into a written question or statement in your mind before you can make sense of it.

Pandora's avatar

It happens to me more frequently but I think it tends to happen when I am preoccupied with something else. My husband will ask me for something as I was heading out of the room and a minute or two later I will come back and look at him and his request will register. Conversations will be the same if someone mentions something that causes my mind to wander off topic. I’m still hearing what they are saying sometimes but only key words. Often enough to keep me on track. But then its like a puzzle of words that I have to put together to register what they where talking about while my mind was off on an island.
Kind of like selective hearing.

YARNLADY's avatar

To clarify, @hearkat is correct, it is a relatively recent experience, and most likely age related in my case.

hearkat's avatar

@Pandora – It is selective hearing (a.k.a. “listening”). When we are younger it is easier to passively hear what is happening around us and process and retain it (to varying degrees, within an individual’s own capacities); but as we get older, we find we need to focus our attention more and become more active listeners.

At any age if we’re preoccupied or distracted, we may miss something, only to mentally fill-in-the-blanks within a second, but as we get older, or if we’re fatigued, stressed, or even with some medical conditions or medications, our focus is diminished and slow the processing system down.

I’ve found a lot of women with young families come in complaining that they aren’t hearing, but their hearing test results come out normal. It typically is because of the multi-tasking lifestyle a mother leads, that it is difficult in that stage of life to have the luxury of sitting and listening without distraction or preoccupation.


@YARNLADY – It couldn’t hurt to get a hearing test. They are covered by Medicare and most insurance carriers. At the very least, you’ll have a baseline. You could also mention it to your primary physician and review any conditions you have or medications you are taking to see if those might contribute to difficulty concentrating or lack of focus, etc. Then you could discuss potential changes to what your taking, or whether you might be able to add any supplements to help improve mental alertness – but never supplement without discussing with your Doctor and/or pharmacist, because some supplements can interact with other medications or supplements you are taking already.

tups's avatar

I have this problem sometimes and I am still under 20, so unless I’m already getting old, it doesn’t have to be age related. I think for me it has something to do with my ability to focus and concentrate.

hearkat's avatar

@tups – In your case, it clearly isn’t age-related. My initial response was very specific towards YarnLady, because I know about how old she is.

In your case, it could be an auditory processing disorder or just a mild deficiency. Has it impacted your ability to function in the classroom? Do you have any other learning challenges or attention problems? Have these ever been evaluated?

If you are still a student, you can have these abilities measured, and perhaps even get extra help or allowances (e.g., extra time for tests, etc.).


A good example of “slow hearing” that occurs with nearly everyone at times is when we are listening to someone who has an unfamiliar accent or a speech impediment. We might hear them clearly, but because of the different speech pattern, it can take us a little longer to piece together what they are saying.

janbb's avatar

A son of mine has always had “slow hearing.” I did have his hearing tested as a child but as @hearkat says, it is a processing rather than a physical problem. He has compensated for it well all his life and is highly successful. Some years ago, I sent him a review of a book by a mother whose son had that problem and he said that when he read the review, he cried in recognition. It mad me sad.

hearkat's avatar

@janbb – Hi, Jan! Can you please post the information about the book – if you remember it?

janbb's avatar

Oh gee – I kind of remember the kid’s name was Blake or Blaine but I don’t remember anything else. Let me try an Amazon search.

This looks like the book.

SABOTEUR's avatar

My daughters say that to me whenever I admonish them to slow down and enunciate when speaking.

“I don’t speak fast…you listen slow.”

rooeytoo's avatar

This has always happened to me too but I never gave it much thought until I read this question and the answers. I do think is has increased with age and the fact that I moved to a different country. The language is english but the inflections and pronunciations are different and aussies do seem to speak more quickly. I really have to listen closely and it is worst of all on the phone when I can’t watch lips and expressions!

GQ and GA’s too!

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