How do you help a child with noise sensitivity, especially when there is no way to avoid triggers? I’m sharing a few of the top parenting tips that have helped my child cope over the years. Read on to learn more!
This past Sunday, as I walked with my children into church, I knew it was going to be a stressful morning. Once a year, at the end of Sunday school, the church conducts its required fire drill. That meant my daughter with special needs was up on the third floor and would need to get down to the first floor with the alarm wailing – and with a noise sensitivity, that alarm truly terrifies her.
For a parent who has a child with a noise sensitivity, it’s not just the occasional fire alarm that causes problems. It’s the hand dryer in public restrooms, the neighbor using a saw, and not being able to use a blender, mixer, or food processor at home.
I believe my daughter has an extremely acute sense of hearing that causes her to hear things differently than most of us, so for her, the sensitivity probably will never go away. Fortunately, I have found that the fear associated with noise sensitivity can be lessened. Here are some things that have helped us.
How to Help Your Child with Noise Sensitivity
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- Identify triggers: The obvious first step is to figure out what types of sounds are the hardest on your child. There are several main types of sound sensitivity, including hyperacusis (a lower tolerance to everyday noises), hyperacute hearing (causes sensitivity to certain frequencies), and recruitment (typically found in children with hearing loss). Your child’s doctor can help you determine which affect your child. Knowing the triggers helps you avoid them as much as possible. When the sounds can’t be avoided, the next tips can help.
- Social stories. When my little girl came home from school after her first fire drill, there was a brief story in her backpack. It went something like this: “Today, we had a fire drill at school. The alarm went off, and it was loud. I listened to my teacher and followed directions. We left the building, and I was okay.” Pictures went along with each sentence to reinforce the ideas. That was my introduction to social stories – stories that teach a child how to behave in a certain situation. You can write a social story for any fear-inducing noise situation for your child, and with consistent reading, your child will know what to expect, lessening his or her fear.
- Find fun. In the chaos, it can be hard to figure out a way to make stressful sounds fun. Be prepared, and think about it now. What sounds cause difficulty for your child? How can you explain that sound as something fun instead of something upsetting? After I showed my daughter that the hand dryers would blow her hair, her fear lessened. My mother explained that saws and drills “sing” as my father was helping me on some projects around my house. We still have the initial fear response, but once we remind of the fun, we don’t end up with a meltdown.
- Replacement noises. We were given a Baby Einstein “radio” when my daughter was a baby, and she still loves it. It goes everywhere with us because when there is an upsetting noise, we can redirect her attention to the radio and help calm the fear.
- Noise-cancelling headphones. My kiddo doesn’t like things on her head, so this isn’t an option for us at this point. However, for some children, these headphones can be a lifesaver. It reduces the overall noise and can help your child focus. They’re not too expensive, so it may be worth a try!
While these suggestions may help ease your child’s noise sensitivity, if you have concerns, make sure to see your pediatrician. It’s important to ensure there isn’t something more significant going on with your little one. It’s always better to check with the professionals!