What’s the first thing you think of when you hear Sensory Processing? You probably picture kids. Little kids in the preschool and early elementary years. But did you know sensory processing issues affect adults too? It’s a natural part of aging, but something rarely discussed. I only learned about it when I reached out for help.
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I’m 40-something and sadly I’ve noticed a lot of age related changes in my body. I know there are celebrities who love to promote how 40 is the new 20 or some other garbage, but for most of us, that is simply not true. Our bodies are aging. It is a natural process. We can embrace healthy living to make the process smoother, but in many ways changes are inevitable.
For a few years I’ve been struggling with my hearing. I developed a severe ear infection a number of years ago that resulted in some bleeding from my ears. I wrongly assumed the infection had led to some permanent damage.
In recent years I’ve struggled to hear things those around me could pick out with no problem. High pitched noises especially didn’t seem to exist anymore for me. People speaking quickly or with an accent I really struggled to understand, especially on the phone.
Oh, how I hate talking on the phone!
But the biggest struggle? Noisy environments.
Now you might say, no problem, just avoid noisy, busy places. But as a mom this is almost impossible. As a homeschooling mom it is impossible.
So here is what I want others to understand, especially other parents. When I attend activities, events and play dates and I wander off to the outskirts by myself, I’m struggling. I find the noise level difficult to filter through, making it a real struggle to hold a conversation. At times I find the noise levels actually painful.
Some children are insanely loud.
If I’m talking to other adults and the kids are playing loudly, talking constantly, and making noise, I struggle to follow the conversation.
When I spent time in my child’s classroom, I would leave with a greater understanding of why my son struggled so much. The noise level of so many children crammed into such a small room, made it very hard to filter, focus, understand and learn. Little kids fidget, move and wriggle and it creates a constant flow of noise in such a small space.
I thought all of my struggles were due to hearing loss or damage, but I was wrong. I went for a full hearing test and discovered my hearing is only slightly below normal range for my age (aka, stinks compared to those under 35 years old… enjoy your bodies people!).
My issue? Declining auditory sensory processing ability due to age. The audiologist informed me that this is normal and that it happens to most adults as we age. By the time I am in my 70’s my auditory processing, especially the ability to filter out sounds and understand speech, will be the equivalent of a 3 year old.
Unless you spend a lot of time around loud, chaotic environments, much of this decline is subtle and takes years to become noticeable. Perhaps due to my infection years ago, and due to the amount of time I spend around loud, chaotic, kid filled environments, my issues have become evident earlier.
Now it makes sense why after leaving a classroom, play date or activity, I often feel so raw. Like I’ve had sandpaper rubbed all over my skin. My nerves are firing like crazy and my sensory systems completely overloaded. My ears hurt. Not a headache, but actual aches, pain and pressure in my ears.
It wasn’t a problem with my hearing and ears. It was my auditory sensory processing system.
I’ve been studying and learning about sensory processing issues for years to help my special needs kids, I guess I need to start applying some of those principles to myself.
But this got me thinking, if this is a natural part of aging, I know I can’t be the only mother out there struggling at play dates and activities involving kids.
Which is why I wanted to write this today. Perhaps with a little awareness my fellow struggling moms may not feel so alone. They may develop a better understanding of their own needs and be able to come up with more effective forms of self care. Together, we can come up with solutions to help and support each other.
Getting old stinks. Having our bodies age and decline in ways we have no control over is hard. By bringing about awareness, hopefully we can make things a little easier for each other.
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