Stop All That Noise! Supporting Kids with Auditory Sensitivities

Dr. Carla LeHouillier, R. Psych.
Wishing Star Associate

Usually I have an easy time blocking out extraneous noises when I’m working. But the other day, at my home office, I had the opportunity to gain a glimpse of what it might be like for students with auditory sensitivities. We are doing some construction on our upper deck at the moment, and the workers (all 6 of them!) were trudging in and out of the house and firing the waterproofing material all day. A few hours and one big headache later, I almost forgot what it felt like to have a quiet house. My ability to concentrate was severely compromised, and I felt particularly unproductive and unfocused, as well as fairly tense. It struck me – this must be what children and adolescents who have sensory challenges in the auditory domain experience every day in the classroom. The everyday noises of traffic outside, other students tapping the desk with their feet or their pencils, and the tick of the clock on the wall, all sound much louder and much more bothersome for these students than those who are able to filter out this auditory input easily. Similar to my experience the other day, many students with auditory sensitivities will have difficulty concentrating, completing their deskwork to the best of their ability, or handling their frustration in the classroom. They may seem more irritable or tense – and you would be too if you could hear loudly and were constantly bothered by every noise present in your environment! Parents and educators can support these kids both in the classroom and when completing assignments at home in a number of ways. For some students, a good set of noise reducing headphones that can be worn during independent deskwork or homework can be very effective for blocking out some of this extraneous input. Finding a quiet space in the classroom, away from others, or placing a desk in the hallway temporarily, can allow students to better focus, as there won’t be as many disturbing noises. At home, you may be able to use rugs or curtains in your child’s study area to help improve the soundproofing in the room. Or, some students feel that listening to calm or soothing music is helpful while studying or completing homework. Teachers, think about the children or adolescents you have in your classroom, and see if any of these strategies might be useful for your students with sensory processing sensitivities. Parents, consider how you can be the best advocate for your child who experiences this type of sensitivity. And remember, having an understanding of each child or adolescents’ experience is key – they are not in control of how they’re processing the incoming auditory information, and they certainly don’t want to be frustrated constantly!

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.


One Comment

  • ListenLoveLearn | 2012.05.28 at 1:11 AM

    Children, especially those who are auditory sensitive still lack the skills and experiences necessary to actively seek clarity and quiet, eliminate conflicting sound sources or moving to a less chaotic auditory situation.

    We recently wrote an article on how to create a better listening environment for kids in our blog. Just want to share them to your reads.