Sound Sensitivity

Photo by Liza Summer on

Sensory processing differences are very common in Autistic people but can also happen with other neurodivergence. What is it? Our senses are hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, and pain. I know in school they teach us we have 5 senses, but pain is another way we sense information from our body, and can be hyper or hypo depending on the person. Someone like me, who has sensory processing issues has either heightened or dampened senses. Which can also fluctuate depending on how well-rested, fed, hydrated, and how healthy our mental state is. Did you do your self-care today? There are times I can handle my sensory sensitivities much better than others.

Being raised by a single dad, it was often just me and him. My dad loves concerts. My first concert was Lalapalooza in 1996 seeing Metallica and Shaolin monks performing. I’ve seen some awesome amazing artists, Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks!!), ZZ top, The Eagles. During his cancer batter, he still got concert tickets. Some he still attended, a few he gave me tickets to take a friend. Since the world opened up again from the pandemic, guess what he’s wanted to do? Take me and his grandkids to see his favorite artists. I enjoy live music and concerts but also struggle.

I have always known about my sound sensitivity. I struggle to focus if there is too loud or too much noise going on. My head aches quickly and in severe cases, I have had panic attacks and meltdowns. I did not fully understand why until learning I was autistic 33 years in. Some concerts just weren’t for me. I had a group of friends as teens have an extra ticket to a Korn concert. Within 15 minutes of it starting, I couldn’t breathe and was sick to my stomach. Thankful I had one friend sit outside the venue with me until the concert was over. The music was just too harsh and fast for me, adding to all the noise in the packed venue.

Usually, my dad is really good at asking if I want to go to a concert. He’s seen my struggle. This year, he got tickets for The Eagles, and The Who, and was looking for more. I was really excited about the Eagles concert. The last time he was able to get tickets, he missed the concert. It was also my son’s first concert. He was too young before the pandemic. It turned out to be a really good event. My son enjoys concerts like grandpa. My daughter enjoys them but struggles like me. He didn’t ask about The Who tickets, I had to remind him that concerts are his enjoyment, but I struggle. I told him about Loop earplugs, a new type of earplugs designed for sound sensitivity!

My oldest and I each got a pair of Loop Experience Pro in preparation. We both went in prepared, earplugs, glasses, and masks. I forgot the venue didn’t allow purses over a specific (small) size. The young one ran it back to the vehicle, and I mean he ran. Long legs these days 🙂 The first act was Steven Page, I recognized the voice but couldn’t put the face and name/band together. He used to be in Barenaked Ladies. I enjoy their music. My Loops were wonderful! I could hear the music, and most of the background noise was cut out. I could still hear my family talking to me. Occasionally I could clearly hear conversations behind or in front of us, but it was minimal. I really enjoyed the first act. I’m looking forward to using Loop in other situations where I’ve found it difficult to filter noise.

When The Who came out, well, I honestly couldn’t tell you if I enjoyed the music or how well the earplugs worked. I’m not sure when music decided light shows are needed to enjoy it. I know back when my dad and the other people in their 60s and 70s at the concert were not rocking out to LED lights flashing in their faces back in the day. Closing my eyes, the lights were still so bright it was like a laser to my brain. I had to cover my eyes with my hands, my sunglasses were in the purse put back before we came in. My eyes are watering, and I’m crying laughing and trying to listen to the music. My oldest is between myself and my dad, I hear, “is your mom okay?” Me: ‘Yes, it’s just bright!’ About the time they were preparing to do the finale, my dad asked everyone if they were ready to leave. We don’t usually leave early. He claims he was in pain (cancer survivor), but I don’t think that’s the reason. We left early.

Last year, I wouldn’t have had issues with the lights. He got the kids and me tickets to Trans-Siberian Orchastra a few years ago. It’s a rock light show. Inflammation from Covid this year caused nerve damage to my eyes and face. The light sensitivity is 75% better than Feb-April, but my eyes took a beating today. I was cry laughing because I can’t win 🙂 I finally found a way to help make concerts better, and they’ve added lights that are literally painful.

On the drive home, I was explaining to my son that it’s not always just the noise level that can be an issue but the filtering through different sounds all happening at the same time and processing speed. I asked my daughter if she took out her earplugs and went “it’s loud in here” and put them back in, “yes.” Me too, no thank you, the world is too loud. I’m hopeful we’ve both found a tool to help calm the chaos of noise we live in. It’ll help calm the worlds in our heads too.

Just to add, there are both benefits and drawbacks to having senses that process the world differently. Learning how to accommodate the drawbacks and use the benefits is part of our journey. Understanding and supporting each other in my multi-generation neurodiverse little family only grows as we learn.

Wishing you find support and tools on your path,

Becca Dove


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