Audiobooks? A Tentative “Yes Please.”

I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, both here and on social media, that I can’t really do audiobooks. My ears don’t like them.

Or, I guess it’s more accurate to say that my brain doesn’t like them. I have an audio processing disorder, which is less a problem with my ears being able to hear and more a problem with my brain not always liking processing speech and interpreting meaning. It sucks. It means that I often have to ask people to repeat themselves because my brain didn’t connect the sounds they made with something that made sense.

Concentrating helps. But not always. And holy crap, do I ever not want to just sit there and really focus on an audiobook without doing anything else. Being on the autism spectrum and having some measure of ADHD, that works for a little while, but then my attention starts to slip, I lose track of what I was listening to, and then I have to go back and try to listen again… I’m sure you can see why I haven’t bothered with audiobooks for most of my life.

But recently I had an idea.

What if I hack my brain?

What if I turn my disadvantages into an advantage?

I’m mentioned before that I make videos for my YouTube channel, reviewing video games and doing deep dives into game stories. But there are other videos I want to make, videos that involve doing a lot of fairly mindless level-grinding. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the “mindless” part of that, since ugh, that’s going to be hours of doing something I can pretty much do reflexively, without thinking much at all, so what was I going to do to entertain myself?

Then it hit me? What if I tried audiobooks again?

ADHD brains are kind of weird. We often need a lot of stimulation to pay attention. That’s why things like fidget toys exist. Give us a spinner to spin, and the act of devoting even a little bit of brainpower to spinning it gives us that extra piece of stimulation that makes our brains go, “Oh good, I can pay attention to this other stuff now.” That’s also why meds for ADHD are usually stimulants. The stimulation allows us, weirdly, to think better.

So I wondered if mindless level-grinding in a video game would be enough to let my brain settle and focus on listening to the audiobook.

See, I didn’t figure out for years that the reason I preferred to watch TV while working on a craft project was likely because my brain needed the stimulation of knitting to focus on the TV show, and the stimulation of the TV show to focus on the knitting. This has been part of my life for ages. I just didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know that it wasn’t a thing most neurotypical people also experienced.

So yeah, I tried audiobooks while level-grinding.

It worked. It was the easiest time I had dealing with an audiobook. I enjoyed the story. I could process the story, and that felt like nothing short of a minor miracle. I mean, yes, I started with an audiobook version of a novel I already knew, so I could ease myself into the experience and not feel like I was losing something if the experiment didn’t work. But still! It did work!

So now I know that I can indeed manage audiobooks… within certain parametres. Hacking my brain is getting to be a regular occurrence for me, figuring out how to make my wonky brain do the things I need it to do. It feels like a whole new world of entertainment just opened up for me, and in a way that lets me do 2 things at once, and given how much my life has shrunk due to dealing with severe fibromyalgia, being able to double my productivity feels like a freaking godsend.

Can’t afford that Audible subscription just yet. But thankfully my local library has a crapton of audiobooks I can borrow, so I have plenty to entertain myself with while I continue to make semi-amusing YouTube videos.

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