Auditory sensitivity is a condition where the brain has difficulty processing certain sounds such as background noise in a restaurant. The inability to process some sounds normally causes the brain to overreact and produce a variety of unpleasant symptoms for the person experiencing auditory overload.
This phenomenon, known as auditory or sensory overload, makes it challenging for people sufferers to concentrate on anything. They symptoms persist until the brain settles down or they remove themselves from the auditory stimulation causing distress.
Common Causes of Auditory Sensitivity
People can develop auditory sensitivity at any age and for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common ones include:
- Defect of the ear’s structure that makes it difficult to receive and process sound signals correctly.
- Injury to or illness affecting the amygdala, the part of the brain that helps to process sound. When the amygdala is healthy, it automatically filters incoming sounds to determine whether they require the person’s attention or if they are safe to ignore. An injury or illness disrupts normal signals sent and received by the amygdala, making some normal sounds seem overwhelming.
- Undiagnosed medical condition or a reaction to medication.
Auditory sensitivity is not a condition by itself but rather a symptom of another health disorder such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, sensory processing disorder, or brain injury.
Typical Symptoms of Sensory Challenges in Adults
Auditory sensitivity as part of a larger sensory problem presents itself in a variety of ways. For people who did not develop the condition until adulthood, diagnosis and finding treatment can sometimes be challenging. Common indications of a sensory disorder in adults include:
- Challenges with balance and coordination.
- Disorganization, which causes the person to lose and forget things often.
- Feeling overwhelmed to the point of panic when in a crowd.
- Fidgety because sitting still is difficult.
- Lack of coordination leading to frequent accidents.
- May avoid hugging and other types of physical touch because it feels so uncomfortable.
- Problems with sustained attention and focus.
- Reacting in an overly emotional way to situations that would probably not bother other people.
- Relationship difficulties due to these symptoms that can be difficult for others to understand.
- Strong smells, bright lights, or loud sounds can cause significant distress.
Sensory issues are complex and not something doctors can treat with medication or surgery. Physical and/or occupational therapy is typically the best route since therapists can spend more time evaluating and treating symptoms. Although the auditory sensitivity and other issues may always be there, targeted therapy helps to reduce the impact of the above symptoms.
Hearable Technology for Auditory Overload
A new category of intelligent wireless earbuds known as “hearables,” offers a personalized listening experience for people with sensory issues, mild hearing loss, tinnitus, and other auditory-related problems. Theses types of noise cancelling earbuds for sensory overload sync with a smartphone app. From there, users establish a hearing profile via a short in-app hearing test.
The hearing profile feature gives users the freedom to set noise control at a comfortable level depending on the environment. For example, users may choose to mute most sound while driving in traffic but select a higher setting at work so as not to miss important conversation. For a more severe hearing loss, it is still recommended to use hearing aids.
The earbuds give people who have had to avoid certain environments due to sound sensitivity a whole new level of freedom and control.