Auditory sensitivity is characteristic of an abnormal intolerance to the auditory perception of sound by the presence of an actual physical sensitivity. For sufferers of CSS with auditory hypersensitivity, even very mild sounds can be discomforting to immobilizing. Most effects are assumed the result of chronic pain and or fatigue, and are exacerbated by auditory sensitivity or vice versa.
Signs of Auditory Sensitivity in Adults
- Experiencing a sharp pain, or series of sharp pains, after a sudden or expected loud noise (e.g. vehicle honking).
- Body-wide muscle contractions resulting in immobility and an inability to think when exposed to a very loud sound (e.g. ambulance siren).
- Headaches when exposed to a random or repetitious quiet sound in a quite room for a short amount of time (e.g. the ticking of a clock, someone tapping their pencil, a dripping fountain).
- Headaches when exposed to sounds with a high base or that have a high pitch for a short amount of time (e.g. car stereo base, high pitch faint sounds from electronics).
- Hearing fluctuating high pitches when in a silent room that others may not hear (e.g. a series of tones, clicks and beeps, or may sound instrumental). Not to be confused with Tinnitus.
- Hearing small sounds at great distances (e.g. hearing, but not necessarily able to understand, a whisper from about 20-30 ft. away or through walls).
- Are a light sleeper and always wake up to subtle sounds (e.g. birds chirping, the sound of you partner changing breathing patterns, someone quietly moving about the house, etc.).
- Have difficulty concentrating at work unless it is quiet.
Signs of Auditory Sensitivity in Children
- Easily distracted by sounds that typically go unnoticed by others (e.g. the humming of florescent lights, refrigerators, fans, heaters, or clocks ticking).
- Fearful of loud sounds such as the flushing of the toilet, the vacuum, hair dryer, noisy shoes (e.g. heavy boots or squeaky sneakers), or dogs barking.
- Startled or distracted by loud or unexpected sounds.
- Is bothered or easily distracted by background environmental sounds (e.g. outside construction, vehicle honking, birds chirping).
- Frequently asks others to be quiet (e.g. to stop making noise, talking, singing, etc.).
- Becomes frantic, cry’s, or runs away when exposed to a loud or unexpected sound.
- Holds head, plugs ears, or complains of headaches during or after watching TV, listening to the radio, or going to the movie theater.
- Refuses or seems bothered by going to a movie theater, skating park/rink, musical concerts, the mall, and playgrounds with lots of other kids.
- Discomforted by loud talkers, and people with high pitched or very low voices.
- Retreats to quiet and often dim or dark places after returning home from school (e.g. makes a clubhouse for one in a small closet).
Ways to Alleviate or Reduce Symptoms
Inside of The Home
Turn down your computer, radio, or TV, and or reduce the amount of sound in your environment (e.g. office) by keeping doors and windows shut. Alternatively, look into working from home. Transform your home into a quite sanctuary, or create a quite space just for you to retreat to avoid auditory bombardment.
Wear silicon ear plugs at night, sleep in a separate room as your partner, or sound proof your bedroom windows to help reduce sounds that may be waking you up several times a night. If not distracted by fans, use a small fan or white noise machine to drown out other more unfavorable noises.
Some auditory issues may be the result of lacking quality sleep. Try prescription or OTC sleep aides, herbal supplements and oils, meditating before sleeping (e.g. letting your mind go – rest), or try a new mattress or pillow (contour pillows are often best) and visco-eleastic 4-pound density memory foam is typically the best way to go.
Outside Of the Home
Avoid places that are known for loud noises (e.g. movie theaters, malls, playgrounds, skate parks/rinks, working in large offices, living in a noisy neighborhood or investing in sound proofing or reduction windows or materials, or using a fan near windows.
Get an MP3 player to play soothing music as a means to avoid unpleasant sounds outside of the home, or load your phone up with MP3s. Use ear plugs whenever needed and it is safe to do so. I use silicon ear plugs. They are the most comfortable and most effective that I have found. Do deep breathing exercises when exposed to loud or unexpected sounds to reduce physical effects.
Avoid wearing hair in a high ponytail, using a headband, hats, or barrettes, as these can lead to the exacerbation of headaches and widespread pain. Also, avoid wearing necklaces and heavy earrings.
Learn to meditate, relax, and let your mind go. This can include mindful meditation, transcendental medication, deep breathing mediation, or even yoga.
If dealing with Tinnitus, see an ear, nose, and throat specialist, try reducing your caffeine intake and try light massage or acupressure (there is a spot right behind the ear, but it is also a trigger point so be gentle – also the area in front of the ear). If the tinnitus is allergy related, try some different nasal allergy sprays, as one of these may resolve your issue. Applying heat behind the ear (hot gel pack) may also help relive the ringing.
Ringing is often caused by pressure. If the pressure is vascular, GABA supplements may help as they dilate tight vessels. If the pressure is due to a sinus infection, seek treatment and try some Mucinex/Guaifenesin – also if you have sinus pressure from a cold. Using steam or menthol vapor is also an option. Tinnitus can also be a sign of tooth infection or ear infection. So if it continues, seek treatment.