Noise Sensitivity in Autism

Noise Sensitivity in AutismOne concern parents and professionals may have with children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that some of these children cannot tolerate listening to certain sounds. Often, parents observe that the children put their hands over their ears, run away from sounds, or sometimes lose control of their behaviors in the presence of certain sounds. These children are often identified as having auditory hypersensitivity or hypersensitive hearing.

One of the most commonly reported challenges for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is hypersensitivity to sound. Some researchers view the strong avoidance reactions exhibited by some individuals with ASDs as emotional regulation, possibly as a result of learned behaviors that are either fear- or annoyance-based.

Two types of treatments have been tried to help children with auditory hypersensitivity.

  1. Listening Methods: The listening method described here uses specially chosen sounds and music, typically classical music. The sounds or music are acoustically modified to lead the child to react less negatively to sounds and, thus, reduce the child’s hypersensitivity.
  2. Systematic Desensitization: The basis of desensitization training, as the name suggests, is to desensitize the emotional and nonclassical auditory systems so that they no longer react negatively to loud and annoying sounds, the things that make the sounds, and the situations in which such sounds may occur.

A critical first step may be to discontinue overuse of ear protection (e.g., earplugs, etc.) that may be counterproductive. Another approach may be to enhance the child’s auditory environment by embedding sound stimuli (e.g., music, noise-making toys, etc) into positive, playful activities. Individualized systematic desensitization protocols, consistently implemented, can make a significant difference.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.