Autism and Auditory Hypersensitivity: Causes and Treatment

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A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that autism spectrum disorder prevalence has significantly increased to over 2% of all children in the United States, with an estimated 1 in 28 boys currently with an autism diagnosis.

Professionals working with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may find that these children are overly sensitive to sounds. These professionals and parents are often concerned as to why children may have auditory hypersensitivities.

The journal Autism Research and Treatment recently published a peer reviewed article which discusses the neural mechanisms identified underlying hypersensitive hearing in people. I wrote this article with Dr. Jay R. Lucker of Howard University. Our article focuses on brain research to support the idea of the non-classical auditory pathways being involved in connecting the auditory system with the emotional system of the brain. We also discuss brain mechanisms believed to be involved in auditory hypersensitivity, and treatments for hypersensitive hearing.

This Wednesday, February 3rd at 8 pm Eastern, Dr. Jay R. Lucker will join me on The Listening Program Radio to discuss the topic of Autism and Auditory Hypersensitivity, the causes, treatment, and hope for those suffering from sound sensitivities.

Register here for this free program and to ask us a question we can answer live. You’ll receive an email with the call-in number and a web link to listen online 3 hours before the show.

Autism and Auditory Hypersensitivity: Hope for Relief

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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.

Abstract

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.

 

Auditory Hypersensitivity and Autism

Sound is everywhere, it’s as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe and the food we eat. Yet, many people become stressed or uncomfortable with sounds in their own home, school, work, and public places, and aren’t even aware of it.The cause, NOISE!

Negative sound exposure has a scientifically proven impact on health, sleep, attention, learning, communication, listening, hearing, stress and more. A 2011 report from the World Health Organization and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre Burden of Disease From Environmental Noise states that “noise like this is second only to air pollution as an environmental cause of ill health.” There is no question noise is a major health concern, something my co-author Don Campbell and me wrote about extensively in our book Healing at the Speed of Sound®.  Each of us is impacted by noise, some more than others. But millions with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders and brain injury are not only impacted by noise, but often develop a negative emotional response to sound.

Dr. Jay Lucker, associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at Howard University in Washington, DC recently co-authored an article with me for Autism Science Digest which explores sound sensitivities in a growing population of children and adults with autism that are known to commonly have hypersensitivities to sound. The article titled “Auditory Hypersensitivity and Autism Spectrum Disorders: An Emotional Response” is in the current issue 04, which is available at Barnes and Noble through July.

Article Abstract- Many children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are described as having auditory hypersensitivities. This paper describes auditory hypersensitivities, the systems involved in hypersensitive hearing, methods for evaluating auditory hypersensitivity in children, and possible treatments. Auditory hypersensitivity involves the non-classical auditory system and is an emotional response to sound rather than an auditory response. Children described as being hypersensitive to sound have negative emotional reactions to sounds and situations in which the sounds are present. It is possible to desensitize these negative emotional reactions and reprogram the emotional memory system so that children are no longer frightened by sounds.

My company Advanced Brain Technologies today announced the launch of TLP Spectrum™; a new auditory program for at home use, to improve sound brain fitness and reduce sensory sensitivities in children and adults who are or who may become hypersensitive to sounds. This program is a gentle way to desensitize emotional reactions to sound.

TLP Spectrum consists of evidence-based instrumental music which contains proprietary sound technologies to exercise the brain, and filter out unwanted sounds, while keeping the listener relaxed during fifteen-minute listening sessions with headphones. The program is ideal for those most susceptible to sound sensitivity; including children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, sensory processing disorders, brain injury and developmental delays, as well as typically developing toddlers (my 2 year old son is on the program), preschoolers, and the elderly.

I’ll be presenting this article and introducing TLP Spectrum at the Autism One/ Generation Rescue Conference 2012 in Chicago next month. Hope to see you there!