Helping individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) achieve their greatest potential has been something close to my heart throughout my career. This interest has lead me in many directions including; research, developing scientifically optimized music for brain training, conference presentations, board positions in autism organizations, and writing.
One of my questions has been why do people with ASD so frequently demonstrate behaviors related to sensory over responsitivity (SOR), specifically auditory hypersensitivity, also called hyperacousis and misophonia? This is a condition that touches not just the majority of individuals with autism, but many others including the so-called “neurotypical”. Sound hypersensitivity can be absolutely debilitating. It is heart-wrenching to see a child or adult suffer pain or perception of pain from everyday sounds.
In the quest to help, I’ve been so fortunate that Dr. Jay R. Lucker of the Department of Communication Sciences at Howard University and I share this interest. For years we have collaborated on research related to this phenomenon. Our first joint article on the topic “Auditory Hypersensitivity and Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Emotional Response” was published in Autism Science Digest in 2012. We then wrote an extensive follow-up to the Autism Science Digest article which is a deeper exploration into the neural mechanisms involved in auditory hypersensitivity which was just published in the peer reviewed journal Autism Research and Treatment.
Professionals working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may find that these children are overly sensitive to sounds. These professionals are often concerned as to why children may have auditory hypersensitivities. This review article discusses the neural mechanisms identified underlying hypersensitive hearing in people. The authors focus on brain research to support the idea of the nonclassical auditory pathways being involved in connecting the auditory system with the emotional system of the brain. The authors also discuss brain mechanisms felt to be involved in auditory hypersensitivity. The authors conclude with a discussion of some treatments for hypersensitive hearing. These treatments include desensitization training and the use of listening therapies such as The Listening Program.
If you are a parent of a child with autism, caregiver, educator, or therapist who is touched by someone with autism, or you yourself are on the autism spectrum I do hope this latest research article provides some answers, and hope for relief from over sensitivity to sounds.