Auditory defensiveness can present itself as intolerance to loud/abrasive sounds (fire truck sirens, school alarms for fire drills, vacuum cleaners, blenders, hand dryers in public restrooms, hair dryers, etc). Misophonia is intolerance to specific sounds. Oral sounds (people eating) is a common trigger for people dealing with Misophonia.
NAH (Noise-Attenuation Headphones) Isn’t A Bad Thing
Using headphones to muffle environmental noises can be used strategically to help your child. Example: If your child has a strong aversion to noise from a vacuum cleaner, have your child watch you vacuum the floor with the headphones on for a set amount of time. It helps to use a visual timer so your child will know when the noxious sound will end. Depending on the severity of your child, start with 30 second increments and increase the time each week. This approach would be used in conjunction with sensory strategies.
You may come across articles discouraging use of noise cancellation headphones because it can make the noise sensitivity worse. This is if it’s not used strategically.
The Brushing Protocol
If your child is on the Brushing Protocol, and I highly recommend that they should be, administer the Brushing Protocol before the loud stimuli is introduced.
Weighted Lap Pad/Blanket or Compression Vest
Place a weighted lap pad or blanket on your child’s lap before the loud stimuli is introduced. If you don’t have a weighted blanket, you can use a large bag of rice wrapped in a pillowcase and place it on your child’s lap.
Don’t Overlook The Basics
Ear Wax Removal Kit (local drug stores) to extract wax build-up. Here’s a youtube video of a young girl getting her ears cleaned: https://youtu.be/j7mlae0VLis. Our kids will likely not sit as calmly. Use the above calming strategies to help alleviate the anxiety (weighted lap pad, compression vest, brushing).
The goal with any sensory-based behavior is to help your child function in a variety of environments. That doesn’t mean the behaviors will completely disappear.
Your child can now tolerate a noisy birthday party for 45-60 minutes as opposed to 3 hours. The goal is that they attended their friend’s birthday party.
Your child can now tolerate a vacuum cleaner by occasionally covering their ears as opposed to running out of the room. The goal is that they tolerate environmental noises without fear.
Keep the main goal in mind and ignore the little imperfections.
Amani Helvy, OTR/L