Listen Live

Pennsylvania Senate candidates Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Dr. Mehmet Oz met Tuesday night for a debate in Harrisburg, the only debate the two will have.

Oz, who said Fetterman misrepresented his positions on abortion and Social Security, restated his positions on those issues and others.

Fetterman, who suffered a stroke in May, struggled at times to get his message across in an effort to show viewers that he is fit to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Fetterman, 53, said his stroke was caused by a clot, a stroke known as an ischemic stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

The debate was unusual — there was no audience and it featured monitors that showed the questions being asked. Fetterman’s campaign asked for the monitors so the candidate could see what was being asked because, they said, he suffers from auditory processing issues following his stroke.

What are auditory processing issues and how has it affected Fetterman? Here’s what we know about them now.

What are auditory processing issues?

Auditory processing issues affect the brain’s ability to filter and interpret sounds.

About 1 in 5 stroke survivors will likely have the condition, which makes it difficult to listen and interpret sound in a noisy situation.

So, is it a hearing problem?

No, the condition is not a hearing problem. Instead, it is a problem with the way your brain interprets what it hears.

When a brain is damaged by a stroke, it can hear words the person already knows in a different way.

An example from WebMD of how someone with auditory processing issues may hear something is if someone says, “Please raise your hand,” a person with auditory processing issues may hear something like “Please haze your plan.”

Fetterman at times seemed to have trouble finding words. Why?

Following a stroke, many people have problems finding words or using the wrong word in a situation, a condition known as aphasia. Fetterman’s campaign told Time.com in June and again this month that he did not have aphasia.

An estimated one-third of stroke survivors deal with aphasia.

Those with auditory processing issues need more time to process the information they are hearing, according to the Auditory Processing Center.

Fetterman’s campaign asked for the monitors and closed captioning of the questions to help him process what was being asked. It is often easier for people with auditory processing issues to understand what is being said if it is written down.

“I sometimes will hear things in a way that’s not perfectly clear,” Fetterman said in an interview. “So, I use captioning, so I’m able to see what you’re saying on the captioning.”

Darlene Williamson, president of the National Aphasia Association, told The Washington Post that Fetterman displayed behaviors that are consistent with aphasia based on his interview with NBC News several weeks ago.

Williamson said the use of closed captioning was a good move for him and the fact he is using different means to better communicate “demonstrates his capacity.”

Fetterman released a letter from his primary doctor last week. In the letter, Dr. Clifford Chen said Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits” and that he “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

Chen added that Fetterman’s speech was “normal” but “he continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee said Fetterman is “rarely showing up on the campaign trail and continues to lack transparency about his health.”

Fetterman said his appearance at the debate Tuesday was enough to show voters he is fit to serve.

Would someone with auditory processing issues get better?

In stroke recovery, people can expect to see the most improvement with symptoms like auditory processing within the first year after the stroke, Swathi Kiran, founding director of the Center for Brain Recovery at Boston University, told the Post.

According to the American Stroke Association, “The most rapid recovery usually occurs during the first three to four months after a stroke, but some survivors continue to recover well into the first and second year after their stroke.”