Sensitivity to Noise

child holding ear flinching

Children will often find certain sounds uncomfortable or scary. Some common examples of these sounds are hand dryers, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, sirens and fireworks.

Children can find these noises disconcerting as they are sudden and loud and they do not always understand where the sound has come from. There are several things you can do to help support a child who is sensitive to certain noises.

  • Understanding the sound source – explaining to the child where the sound is coming from and why it is loud helps remove the fear factor.
  • Prepare your child – we cannot prepare for unexpected sound, such as sirens, but before switching on the vacuum cleaner or entering a room with a hand dryer,  you can remind the child about the sound in advance so they know what to expect.
  • Relaxation and breathing techniques – these will help remove the child’s focus away from the sound and relieve their anxiety and fear.
    For relaxation and breathing techniques the following websites may be helpful:
    Childline Calm Zone
    Mind Relaxation Tips
  • The use of ear defenders is not routinely recommended in children with sensitivity to noise. They may prevent children from getting used to loud sounds which may result in the sounds seeming even louder when they are not wearing them. The same applies for removing children from situations that are noisy.
  • The more exposure children get to these everyday sounds, the more quickly they can adapt to them. You can try watching video clips of sounds that they find scary or uncomfortable; if they can stop and start the video themselves, it can help to give them some control of the situation. They can begin listening to the video at a quieter volume and, over time, increase it to a louder volume once they feel able to cope.

Sensitivity to noise is especially common in children with known sensory or complex needs. If the child is under the care of an Occupational Therapist or Community Paediatrician then you can also discuss your concerns with them.

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