Auditory Processing Disorder is a condition in which people have difficulty understanding audio information in different contexts.

They may have particular difficulty with:

  • Noisy backgrounds
  • Strong accents and fast talkers
  • Similar sounding words
  • Voices on the phone or on TV
  • Spoken instructions
  • Following conversations

Auditory Processing Disorder in adults is discussed less than in children but the condition is gaining more awareness at all stages of life. Recent research suggests that as many as 20% of adults in the U.K. have the condition. It is not known exactly why APD can occur but some possible explanations include:

  • Chronic ear infections
  • Head injury
  • Bacterial infections including meningitis
  • Autism spectrum disorder

APD symptoms are commonly associated with autism and ADHD however you do not need to have one to have the other. Some people on the autism spectrum may have symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorder without necessarily being diagnosed with the condition.

How Can Auditory Processing Disorder Affect You at Work?

There are lots of different ways in which having APD might affect your life at work. The condition will affect people in a range of different ways but some common complications include:

  • Struggling with phone calls and hearing what people are saying on the phone
  • Have difficulties in meetings, especially with note-taking
  • Not understanding spoken instructions easily
  • Withdrawal from social communication in the workplace

If you live with Auditory Processing Disorder, it is a good idea to disclose your condition to your employer if you feel comfortable. If you do, your employer will be able to make the reasonable adjustments you need. There are a few different ways you can be supported with APD. Whatever you need depends on your own symptoms but some good reasonable adjustments could be:

  • Having a note-taker for meetings and Zoom calls
  • Receiving written instructions rather than spoken
  • Being permitted to use a voice recorder to listen back to meetings and important conversations
  • Extra equipment such as a headset or loudspeaker

If you are diagnosed with APD and the condition is affecting you at work, you are entitled to ask for any of these things. Don’t be afraid to request the support you need.

Diagnosing and Disclosing A Disability at Work

If you think you have symptoms associated with Auditory Processing Disorder but haven’t yet received a diagnosis, it is a good idea to visit your doctor. They will be able to conduct a test or signpost you to other professionals who can conduct a test. This test will tell you whether you do have the condition or not. Them you can go about getting the reasonable adjustments you need at work too.

Worrying that you aren’t getting or won’t get the right support at work might be a sign that your employer isn’t Disability-Friendly. You should feel comfortable disclosing a disability. You should also feel assured that you will get the support you need for any disability. If you don’t, it could be time to look elsewhere.

To find jobs from inclusive and accessible employers, you can check out our live job board on Careers with Disabilities. There you can find a job with an employer who will give you what you need.

How Can Employers Support Employees With APD?

If you have an employee who discloses that they have Auditory Processing Disorder, you might be wondering how best to support them.

The very first thing that you can do is educate yourself about the condition and what it is like to live with it. To help, we have compiled a short list of resources that are very informative:

These resources can help you make a start with having more knowledge about Auditory Processing Disorder in adults. The more you know, the better you will be able to support your own employees.

Something that comes up time and time again around this topic is reasonable adjustments. When you have an employee with APD, you will probably need to make reasonable adjustments for them. These changes or modifications will help them work more comfortably.

Reasonable Adjustments

As we have seen from the information available about the condition, the most popular reasonable adjustments among adults with APD include:

  • Having a quiet space to work
  • Dampening echoes in the workplace with carpets or rugs
  • Provision of equipment including noise-cancelling headphones, recorders, speech-to-text software, and assistive listening devices
  • Remote working or hybrid models
  • Extra time or more flexible deadlines
  • A note taker
  • Written instructions or written correspondence instead of oral – i.e. emails over meetings
  • Subtitles on video material

And more. Different reasonable adjustments will work differently for individual people. Not everyone with APD will feel the same about certain things and that is important to remember. We can’t stereotype or group disabled people together. Everyone is an individual with individual needs, even if they do live with the same condition.

The best thing that you can do as an employer is check in with your employee and what they want. Try your best to encourage an open and accepting work environment that allows your employees to speak freely about what they need. Whether it is with you, an HR rep or a line manager, every employee needs someone to speak to about their needs. Again, the more we know the better. So the more open and accessible we can be the better.

Working With Diverse Employees

Diverse and disabled employees have so much to offer a workplace. Becoming a more accessible employer is a great thing to do for both you and your employees and colleagues. Many benefits are in store for employers who open up in an inclusive way.

If you want to access a more diverse market of candidates, you can post a job with us at Careers with Disabilities. We can help you with the process of inclusive recruitment in many ways. Then we can connect you with the candidates you need.