Many children and adults with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may have auditory defensiveness/sensitivity.
What is SPD?
This is a condition where someone is highly sensitive to sounds that most people can tolerate, filter out or modulate. It puts their Central Nervous System (CNS) into a fight, flight or freeze reaction which makes their bodies feel like they are in danger. The person’s adrenalin will spike from the sounds.
As a result, they may act out in a negative behavior response in public, school, home or at work. This may also result in a more stressful/upset day because the CNS is thrown-off from its typical self-regulated path to a more stressful and emotional path for the rest of their day.
What are some calming techniques?
There are many different ways to help with sound hypersensitivity. Many Pediatric Occupational Therapists (OT’s) are trained in Therapeutic Music programs. These programs have the patient wear high definition headphones with specially recorded music to exercise the inner ears and the auditory centers of the brain to help the child regulate the sound. And there are some other benefits too! If interested, ask your OT about which Therapeutic Music programs they use.
Another technique OTs are trained in is the Wilbarger Protocol for Sensory Defensiveness. The Wilbarger-Therapressure-Brush is used for a specific brushing and joint compression protocol that may also help regulate a person’s CNS to decrease the hypersensitivity to sound.
Are there products that can be useful?
If your child is not seeing an OT, you can get them noise cancelling headphones to have in the classroom, on an airplane, out in public or at home while someone vacuums, uses a blender, flushes a toilet, etc. These headphones block out extraneous background noise and dampen loud noises, but allow conversational level speech to be heard.
I have children dampen sound to help them get used to it at a lower intensity vs. canceling all sound out, unless they’re performing a concentration activity (homework, paper work or learning a new skill by themselves).
Another idea is to create a special space for your child – somewhere they will feel
secure and can relax and be themselves. A Privacy Pop Bed Tent is a great place a person can seclude themselves and get away to block out sound and visual distractions while relaxing with no worries.
Now you have many therapeutic tools to look to for helping anyone with auditory sensitivity, it’s time to see which ones work best for you or your loved one!
Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.