Being sensitive to noise can cause anxiety.

Noise Sensitivity & Anxiety

by Karen Kleinschmidt

Anxiety is a normal part of childhood; children may show separation anxiety at various stages of development or have fears of strangers or the dark according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A child with noise sensitivity may become anxious waiting for or expecting a loud noise so she is ready to flee from it. Finding out the cause of the noise sensitivity will enable parents to assist their child with the anxiety caused by it.

1. Hyperacusis

Children who have hyperacusis suffer from an intolerance to normal sounds in their environments. Hyperacusis can gradually occur over a period of time or the child may have a sudden onset when feeling extreme anxiety as a result of a crisis situation according to The Hyperacusis Network. The child who has symptoms of hyperacusis needs to have his loudness discomfort levels tested. Normal levels are within the 85 to 90 range says The Hyperacusis Network, but children with hyperacusis have significantly lower levels than their peers. Therapy generally consists of special hearing aids that enable the patients to listen to broadband pink noise along with direct counseling for a period of approximately six months.

2. Highly Sensitive

A highly-sensitive child may become anxious when in big, loud groups of people or from too much noise in general. Highly sensitive children pick up on the moods of people they encounter and respond to lights, sounds and smells within their environment, according to Maureen Dawn Healy, an expert on highly sensitive children. Their intense perceptions can cause them anxiety and result in temper tantrums, withdrawal or episodes of crying. Rather than trying to change your highly sensitive child, teach him coping skills when noise levels cause anxiety. Healy recommends creating a calming corner or nook where he can read, listen to music or play with a favorite toy away from the perceived chaos. When in a social situation, teach your child to tell or signal to you that he is feeling overwhelmed, so you may help him find a calm place.

3. Autism Spectrum

Children with autism spectrum disorders may be hypersensitive to sound, and may flee from loud, piercing sounds or noisy situations with their hands covering their ears, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. Some parents may limit noisy activities or have their children wear earplugs to help reduce noise and decrease anxiety levels that may result from noise exposure. Evidence that individuals with autism spectrum disorders have hearing that is physiologically different that their peers is unfounded, according to the American Speech-Language Hearing Association. A possible explanation is that these children fear and become anxious in response to certain sounds and a pattern of self-protection develops and becomes an ingrained behavior.

4. Phonophobia

Phonophobia is the fear of sound. Severe anxiety develops if a child fears the sounds in her present environment as well as the sounds she might hear in the future, according to the Hyperacusis Network. Children with phonophobia may feel a strong desire to isolate themselves to avoid the adverse emotional reactions their fear creates. The phobia can make therapy more difficult, but it is essential to build tolerance to sound to recover, according to the Hyperacusis Network.

About the Author

Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.

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