Kids with auditory sensitivities may become distressed by background noise and in places where unexpected loud sounds can disturb them: public bathrooms with toilets that flush loudly, parties where balloons pop, and so on. One effective way to help them is to provide earplugs. Contrary to popular belief, earplugs do not block out all sound. They simply reduce overall volume. Foam earplugs are cheap and easily found in drugstores, and you can teach your child with sensory issues how to roll them between her fingers to make them smaller and then insert them into the ear. While you don’t want your child to become used to wearing earplugs all the time, in particularly challenging situations they can be a real stress buster for the sensory child with auditory sensitivities.
Noise cancellation headphones are another option and especially helpful for concerts and Monster Truck® shows, but also to provide a child with sensory breaks from excess auditory stimulation. Noise cancellation headphones block far more noise than do earplugs so use them judiciously, ideally under the guidance of a sensory smart OT who can set up a sensory diet that incorporates breaks from auditory stimulation. These headphones can typically be found for $15-35 in hardware stores although you may want to do an internet search to find them in the smallest sizes.
If background noise makes it difficult for a sensory child to fall asleep or focus on schoolwork, you can use a white noise machine, a radio turned to static, a fan, or an aquarium to provide masking for distressing and distracting sounds. Experiment with music designed specifically to improve focusing, such as Hemi-Sync Metamusic®. New Age music or nature sounds may help some children with SPD focus better, or they may distract them further. Work with the child to find the music that enhances his focusing ability. Observe his responses and ask him if the music is helping or hindering him.
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