“What did you say?” CAPD and the Thyroid

For most of my life I’ve had some issues with understanding the spoken word. I always made sure to sit in front of the class in school, and I got pretty good at lip reading. I had my hearing tested at school several times and it always came back that I had perfect hearing. You sit me in a sound proof box and send tones to me, I can hear them all day without a problem. However, you put me in a crowded or noisy environment and I may not recognize my name being spoken. I knew something was wrong, and finally a few years ago I found out what it was.

I have something called Central Auditory Processing Disorder or CAPD. In my case Adult CAPD. CAPD is basically an umbrella term for a variety of disorders that affect the way the brain processes auditory information. Put in simpler terms, my ears themselves work fine, they bring sound to my brain just like they are supposed to. Once they reach the brain, my brain doesn’t always interpret the sounds they hear very well.

I will give you an example of how my world works. Say you are in a room and several people are having a conversation around you. Someone is trying to speak to you. They say something and you know that they are speaking clearly to you, but for some reason your brain refuses to make sense out of what they are saying. A funny example was this past Christmas. I was at my mother’s house, and I heard my sister come in. What my brain thought she said (she was out of my eye sight) was “Hey, I’m a naked chick”. What she actually said (to my relief) was “Hey I’m making chicken tomorrow”. This is the world in which I live and this sort of thing happens to me quite frequently.

I found a really good Audiologist about three years ago. A friend suggested that after I passed yet another standard hearing test with flying colors that maybe it’s not my ears that were the problem but my brain. They had been diagnosed with CAPD as a child and had outgrown it, so they were familiar with the issues I had been having. I had to look far and wide to find an Audiologist who even knew about this disorder and could test for it. I found this Audiologist who had been trained and was a specialists in CAPD and not only that was able to test me as an adult. I went in for a series of tests to find out if this was indeed the cause of mis-hearing every other word.

The testing for CAPD is different from standard hearing tests. They start out with that to find out if you also have hearing loss, I apparently do not. Then they move on with you in the that same soundproof room with a set of headphones on. One ear will get no sound, and the other will get an increasingly complex serious of sentences that you will have to identify. This helps them determine which side is having the problems and to what degree. From the way it was explained to me, your ears take in sound from the left and right side, and then your brain is the referee who figures out meaning based on what both sides heard. Then it processes the sound and gives you the meaning. If both sides give you accurate information, most normal people get the information they hear correct about 90% of the time, so even normal people occasionally mis-hear something occasionally. What is a problem is when your hearing comprehension drops to lower than this. After running the tests we found that my left side processes information accurately about 50% of the time and my right side about 70%. Both of these are well below normal. When you have one side getting it wrong half the time and the other side getting it wrong  roughly 1/4 of the time, it makes it hard for your brain to reconcile the discrepancies. Thus you get the “I’m a naked chick” scenarios going through your brain.

As I said before I found a really good Audiologist. He put me into a test group where they did several brain training sessions with me. I had exercises to strengthen each sides brain comprehension, I had sessions in the sound proof box where they had me go over various verbal sentences to try to increase my comprehension. At the end of six weeks they tested me again. My left side went up to 70% and my right side to 80%. Still not normal levels, but so much better than they ever were. The Audiologist had told me that some people who have gone thru the test group actually regained almost all normal hearing comprehension, but for me, gaining like that helped so much. What also helped was being aware of my issue, and starting to tell people around me about the problem I dealt with.

Here we get to the thyroid connection. Since I have Graves’ disease, he had this theory that possibly my thyroid hormones could be playing a role in my hearing comprehension. So every time I went in for a thyroid blood test, he would also test my CAPD that same week. Then I would give him my levels to correlate if at all to my hearing comprehension. During a two year period, my thyroid levels went from hypothyroid to euthyroid (normal levels) over to hyperthyroid. What we found was really interesting. When my thyroid levels were in the hyperthyroid ranges, my hearing comprehension was almost 90% on each side. When the levels dropped to normal. I went back down to what I had gained from the test group. When I was hypothyroid, my levels dropped almost to where I was before the gain I received from the test group. There was a definitely correlation at least for me! He’s still looking for people in our area last I heard to try to find out if others have this same issue. The theory he has is that since the thyroid also controls some brain functions, when it is hyper and floods the body and brain it is also speeding up the area that processes information, which is why my hearing comprehension is better.

These days, I now have another symptoms to watch for to see if my thyroid levels have changed. Am I hearing about the same or a lot better, then maybe I’m heading towards hyper, if it’s getting worse, maybe my levels are going down. So far keeping track myself, I still am showing the same issues as his tests showed. Hypo and normal, not so great comprehension. The year I went borderline hyperthyroid, I didn’t have any issues understanding people.

If you want to understand more about CAPD, I highly recommend this article by Judith Paton “Living and Working with a Central Auditory Processing Disorder”, it was one of the first things I read when I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t understand people and kept hearing the most ridiculous things that I knew couldn’t be what people said.

Check out Britney over at http://www.WarriorButterflies.com

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