Hyperacusis and Misophonia

Hearing / Auditory Differences

Many neurodivergent people experience differences in processing sound. In shared environments, this can pose challenges.

In busy environments, this can sometimes be debilitating, and can lead to Sensory Overload and a fight, flight, freeze, fawn, flop response. There are very obvious impacts which may become apparent in school for young people who are neurodivergent.

Recognition and support can be hugely beneficial in helping make these conditions more tolerable.

Hyperacusis – ‘Super Hearing’

Hyperacusis can be measured in hearing tests, but perhaps more importantly, awareness that it is an issue for may neurodivergent people can go a long way towards mitigating the impacts.

A dripping tap, a buzzing electric light bulb, a distant alarm going off can become overwhelming and interfere with someone’s ability to process other sounds too.

A loud and surprising noise can cause pain and dysregulation which may last for hours afterwards. Examples may include emergency alarms going off, sirens travelling close by and so on.

Hyperacusis can be more prevalent when someone has heightened levels of anxiety.

What can help?

Ear plugs which are designed to reduce certain frequencies of noise can be very beneficial. They do NOT block out all sound, but can reduce the impact of unwelcome noise. They can best be described as a ‘passive acoustic filter’ and do not contain any electronics.

Many schools and colleges now accept that these can be used as a reasonable adjustment – some schools even provide them for pupils experiencing difficulties.

There are suppliers such as Flare, and Loop amongst others.

This article outlines some consumer testing Best earplugs to save you from sound sensitivity | WIRED UK

Noise Generating Hearing Aids can also be acquired via audiology / hearing clinics, and sometime on the NHS (in the UK) – these ‘push’ pink noise into the ear which can help ‘retrain’ hearing.

Additional information can be found here What To Do | The Hyperacusis Network

Misophonia – ‘Unbearable sounds’

For some people, certain sounds can be unbearable and create a very visceral response.

Misophonia is a significant condition where sounds can lead to a fight/flight/freeze/fawn/flop response and have a profound impact on the ability of the person experiencing it to remain safely in the proximity of the sound.

Group settings can be a real challenge and it is easy to see how a classroom, sports hall, swimming pool, school dining area, restaurant or even sharing a family meal around a table can present extraordinary challenges.

What can help?

Ear plugs, and headphones can be very useful, as can background noise like music or a TV on.

It is especially important to note how difficult it can be to share a meal / eating space with others for someone who has misophonia.

Where there are eating difficulties more generally, potentially in terms of disordered eating or ARFID, simply being allowed to eat safe foods with a screen on, perhaps alone, or wearing headphones might help someone remove an unnecessary sensory challenge.

Additional Information can be found here Misophonia: Symptoms, Triggers, Treatment, and More (healthline.com)