Auditory Processing as an ADHD or Autistic person

Audio Queuing and Hyperfocus/Mind-Wandering

Common anecdotal Auditory Processing Issues (not sure this is related to the specific Auditory Processing Disorder). These are some less known presentations (even among some ADHD/Autistic people), that I have observed in myself and I have had others say they relate to. The only science here that discusses these effects are to do with the cocktail effect and group situations(I’ll explain below).

I like to refer to these processes as Audio Queuing.

Audio Queuing

Audio queuing is a term that I don’t know if it has been used much (if anywhere), or it’s definitely not recognised well in science for ADHD and Autism. People with this issue have discussed this briefly on twitter in discussions, and a lot of this is based on my own observations in life.

What is audio queuing?
Audio queuing is the process of hearing speech from others during tasks we are concentrated on and queuing it for retrieval, or in some cases allowing that audio input to interrupt and override what we are doing. Sometimes this information isn’t stored (ie we are not actually listening at all), but a lot of the times when you assume we haven’t heard – we have – it’s just lost in processing somewhere.

These also affect us in two major ways – listening to music, and in group situations.

I’ll explain my hypothesised category of presentations.

Subtypes of Audio Queuing

  • latent queuing
  • retrieval and recognition
  • override and interrupt

Latent queuing:
The first presentation is what I like to call latent queuing. Our brains are processing a lot of information all the time – with increased sensory sensitivity we take a lot more in. When we are in hyperfocus, we will often queue what has been said to us to answer after.

Sometimes this can literally take hours to do. The information is stored somewhere by our brains, and then retrieved when it believes our queue of more important tasks is finished. I’ve answered questions hours later and had to give context.

Retrieval and recognition
The second part about audio queuing is that quite often we will be accused of “not listening” – this can happen, but there’s also another thing that happens with queuing. We will ask you to repeat yourself or to clarify – it’s suddenly all there after the first word

The first syllable primes the memory that we didn’t know about for retrieval. Unfortunately – this means we usually interrupt you to say “yes we have got it” – people then think that you are rude because you don’t care. But we actually know what you’ve said.

Override and interrupt
The third way the queue works is when we are typing or writing out information – this is known as overriding and interrupting for me. If you are talking loudly or talk to me when I am typing sometimes, I will process your audio by typing out what you have said unconsciously. Your audio has “hacked” our language brain.

Major ways these effects influence us in everyday life

Music
I love music with lyrics, lyrical content and the ability to relate it to my situation – everyone does this. But I can’t actively listen to music where I cannot relate to the content. Melody is important, but I’ll listen to stuff ‘outside’ my genres if the lyrics are good.

However, lyrical content is usually extremely hard to listen to and perform a task at the same time (there are exceptions – if I know the music well vocals usually blend as an instrument).

Generally though – if I am working – I need instrumentals. It’s not that I dislike music for this reason, but because all of these queuing issues can happen while listening.

The Cocktail Effect
The cocktail effect is the ability to listen to only one conversation in a room full of people. For me, even a second set of people having a conversation close to me is a nightmare as I parse both the conversations at the same time

But this actually overloads our processing queue. We can get so lost in trying to process two conversations because we hear them with this weird queuing system. It gets to the point in large groups of talk there’s so much processing that we cannot even hear our names. This has been observed in science, but not really explained as to why this occurs. They refer to it as a ‘filtering’ issue but I believe it’s more a processing issue.

Advice to allies of ADHD or Autistic people

I believe these audio queuing problems are another reason why group social situations are super draining – not because we don’t care or like to socialise – but we are dealing with massive overloading of the one system we have that has a queue. Masking has a huge effect not to be downplayed here.

Small groups with one person talking is better. The best way to communicate with us is one on one. We’ll be able to read and understand you much better. We don’t get lost by sensory overload. Our focus is usually on the person in front of us.

Meetings actually make us tune out due to overloading us – if you can – make it an email.

Published by roryreckons

I am an ADHD/Autism/OCD advocate and independent ADHD/Autism researcher. I am training in 2021 to become an ICF Accredited ADHD coach. I write mainly about ADHD/Autism/OCD/Mental health issues, but will also discuss morality, abolition, and current affairs occasionally.

2 thoughts on “Auditory Processing as an ADHD or Autistic person

  1. Interesting article. I relate to a lot of it. Especially the bit amount music with lyrics when struggling for focus, especially writing tasks where I need to really think. I find binaural beats to be great for that type of focus!

    Liked by 1 person

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