hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

topic posted Thu, December 21, 2006 - 2:31 AM by  Unsubscribed
I just thought I'd share this. I have read that people with AS can become quite agitated over little repetitive sounds in the environment that other people can tune out. The ticking of a clock is one example of this.

I find that for me it's chewing noises. I have yet to meet a single other person who is as bothered by them as I am. Often I can't even eat in the same room as other people for this reason. It also limits what jobs I can hold. Perhaps that's why I am making a career out of call centres - if it's your job to talk, usually there is a rule in place that you can't be eating anything at the same time. But sometimes people will stick gum in their mouths anyway. Others don't seem to even notice, but to me it's as loud as thunder. It's even affected my schooling - inevitably there will be at least one person in every classroom that will be chewing loudly on a daily basis. One class I quit attending; the other I actually failed because I would come home so exhausted from the stress of having to hear that all the time that I didn't have any energy left for homework. Even when I'm on the bus I have to select my seat based on who is chewing - I'll usually sit ahead of them so I don't have to see them, and I'll put my music on so I don't have to hear them.

I am on an anti-depressant called Mirtazapine (generic Remeron) which helps to calm me down a little but it doesn't quite take care of everything. I have been like this for at least 10 years, so the best I can hope for is to be in situations where things are quiet and controlled.
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  • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

    Tue, December 26, 2006 - 7:12 AM
    yeah mel, my daughter uses her headphones regulary for this reason too, it really helps.

    we have a fountain right in front of the house.. and the water running is very irritating to her. we also have a good supply of ear plugs, which have helped us out in unexpected situations.

    So far my daughter as been able to avoid medications.. and I am glad of it, as I think it is hard to come off them once started.

    I myself have had to resort to anti-depressants for a short while, and just after a couple of months I found, that when not taking them, I was very shakey dealing with my own emotions. I had been buffered, and already I had forgotten how to deal with them myself.. so the "weaning off" was difficult, even though I was told that they were reasonably mild antidepressants, and I had only taken them for a couple of months.

    So I would recommend to anyone to get off them asap, and if you have taken any psychoinfluencing drugs for a while, to wean yourself off them slowly and with great care,- expect to feel shakey until the hormones can organise themselves properly again, and make sure you have support from friends and doctors/professionals for that bumpy time

    I have had good sucess with tuina, herbal TCM and western herbal medications.. which seems to work for me.

    for my AS daughter, for her it seems to be the most important that she has quiet periods in the garden, sitting by the pond, studying newts and insects.. stroking the cats helps too to desensitize
    • Unsu...

      Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

      Thu, December 28, 2006 - 8:40 PM
      My greatest problems regarding hyper-sensitivity have been with smells, especially when it comes to perfumes and chemical smells.

      When I was a child my mother, who could not afford a car, would take me everywhere on the bus. The smell of the diesel exhaust would make me absolutely sick and I would require a great deal of time to recuperate from the ride. This made my mother severely irritated with me. To make matters worse, there were many times I became so nauseated by the fumes I threw up when we had reached our destination. One such incident took place in the center of the downtown mall. (The whole thing is quite entertaining in retrospect.)

      To this day I cannot stand certain perfumes that women wear. If I cannot get away from the smell, such as when I am at work and trapped in the same room with a particularly fragrant person, a massive migraine inevitably results.

      Fluorescent lights have had this affect on me, and, when I was a child, the colors yellow, and brown, especially when combined, made my head hurt.

      I could go on and on…however, on a more positive note, it does seem that my hypersensitivity has improved, or lessened, with age. I am not as sensitive as I was as a child.
      • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

        Fri, December 29, 2006 - 2:00 PM
        wow, broome, that was very interesting to learn about..!

        now you mention it, my daughter makes quite a fuss about strong scents like you mention.
        I used to get annoyed with my daughter, as did your mum..- still, we have settled for a more polite way of communicating to any concerned, which makes it easier to accomodate her

        certain colours irritate you? amazing. I love colours, and need colours around me,- and as an artist I work mostly with colours. My daughter however, who as an artist is probable much more talented than me, uses colour very tentatively, and mostly just makes line drawings.. I sense a connection there

        thank you for sharing that info broome
        • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

          Fri, December 29, 2006 - 2:09 PM
          I just asked my daughter about the yellow and brown, and she told me that this is just like the character in the book "the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime", which is about an aspie, do you know it?
          • Unsu...

            Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

            Sat, December 30, 2006 - 6:57 PM

            I have not heard of this book. Is it a children's picture book, a juvenile novel, or a kind of chapter book? I will look it up the internet.

            Though the colors yellow and brown bothered me as a child, I no longer experience them in the same way: they do not bother me. However, certain smells still overwhelm me. But as I said, these are mostly sweet-smelling chemical scents.

            My cat reacts to perfumes too, only she reacts to the stimulation they invoke differently, as one would expect a cat to react catnip. She becomes aggressively playful and behaves like a kitten. Funniest of all, and most potentially dangerous, is her love of dryer sheets; she tries to eat them. There have been several times when I have had to pull them out of her mouth to prevent her from chocking. In my house the rule is we grab the dryer sheet from the dryer before taking out the clothes and throw it quickly away to ensure our cat has no chance to get hold of it.
            • Unsu...

              Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

              Sat, December 30, 2006 - 7:12 PM
              I am sorry jana: you said your daughter mentioned the book so I assumed it was a children's book. However, I looked it up online and it is a mystery. Actually, I had no idea what this book is about, but I recognized the cover instantly when I saw it--I was a bookseller for three years and usually recognize covers before titles, since I have probably shelved, alphabetized and organized most books a few hundred of times.

              Anyhow, I will have to give the book a try, it sounds interesting from what I read on I do not usually read fiction, but it might be interesting to see how an aspie is portrayed in this novel.
      • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

        Fri, December 29, 2006 - 5:15 PM
        I completely identify with the smell and sound issues both. As a child, I would get horrendous headaches when it would rain during the night and in the morning sun, fumes from the tarry steam coming from the streets would make me nauseous. Diesel fumes too.

        As for sounds, it isn't a particular sound that irritates me, but *any* sort of background noise becomes so overwhelming that I can't even hear someone talking to me a couple feet away. I have practiced reading lips just to help me make out what they're saying!
        • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

          Wed, January 3, 2007 - 6:40 PM
          Styrofoam squeaks make me want to scream (or just about anything with a high harmonic overtone). We're talking total bunching up of the muscles of my back and neck, spasm style.

          Likewise chewing sounds, they p*ss me off big time (as in senseless fury vs having to leave the area).

          Scent-wise, anything petroleum or synthetic, but that may be more of a genetic sensitivity than AS....
          • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

            Sun, January 14, 2007 - 10:59 AM
            This is so interresting. We all so similar in our quirks, having not been similar to anyone much, it's funny. My mom spent time being anoid with my foibles. I try and cut my son huge slack because of that. He hates that styrofoam sound, a lot. Slurping or squishy chewing sounds have always irritated the hell out of me. In the Oasis guide I was surprised and amused to read that out of all the posible annoying sounds that aspies percieve, chewing was the number one irritant.
            Colors...I get it, but I was drawn to one...I can't explain, it just is my color, always speaks to me or something. Deep red. I see it and I feel complete in some way.
            • Unsu...

              Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

              Sun, January 14, 2007 - 11:53 AM
              One of my daughter's teachers at city college cannot stand anyone to eat in class. The sound drives her nuts.
              I cannot stand repetitive noises while I'm cooking. I guess 'cause cooking is so high stress for me.

              And as for petroleum/chemical scents -- those things are toxic as hell, as well as annoying. See links at for info.
            • Unsu...

              Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

              Mon, January 15, 2007 - 9:40 PM
              Wow...I had no idea this was so common! And yeah I know what you mean about not finding anyone similar to you and then suddenly in this tribe it turns out to be such a common ground. I don't post here too often but this tribe means so much to very much. It's so validating. I think about these discussions often.
      • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

        Wed, March 21, 2007 - 5:30 PM
        Oh my gosh! This fits me also.

        I used to get sick on long car rides because of the gasoline smell (getting refules was the worst). What you said about perfumes really resonates with me. Most perfumes are too strong and too sickly for me. Another major thing is cigarrette smoke. If I smell it, I start to gag and my breathing closes up. Hmm I wonder if that's an allergic responce now that I think abou it.
        • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

          Mon, August 20, 2007 - 9:08 AM
          wow another person with issues with perfumes... I call it running the gauntlet in dept stores where they have the people who do makeup...

          I also have issues with chewing gum and smacking... drives me bonkers... smacking especially... or even more the people who click their gum... drives me batty!

          I get overloaded by all of these and it triggers severe migranes...

          What is even worse... I cant usually work in a place that has no outside light... if it is strictly florescent tube bulbs (PC's dont seem to bother me just the classic tube types) I get severe migranes... I can see the flicker.. strange eh? It was worse in germany where the flicker was at 60hz vs the 50hz here in the states... but I can still see it.

          When my migranes hit I go blind in my right eye... its like the end of a looney tunes cartoon where it just closes up then goes to a pinpoint of light and then blink its gone.. till I get rid of the migrane...

          • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

            Mon, August 20, 2007 - 4:50 PM
            Scent has always been an issue for me. Less so in recent years. I'm now able to walk down the detergent isle of a grocery store without nearly gagging like I did when I was younger. Perfumes and colognes are still a bit of an issue for me. Even (and perhaps especially) unscented commercial cleaners were a big problem for me as a child. I can remember walking into a bathroom in any school, store or hospital when the cleaning crew had finished within 30 minutes or an hour before me and getting an intense headache from the smell of either bleach or amonia and finding it difficult to breathe. It was like an invisible elephant that only I could see -- nobody else had a problem with it -- I was basically incapacitated by it.
  • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

    Thu, March 22, 2007 - 9:26 AM
    If it weren't fer the white noise machine my wife bought me years ago, I don't think I could sleep at all any more -- otherwise, I would hear our pets, the clocks ticking, the squirrels out in the yard, passing traffic, the neighbor's TV, the wind...

    Occassionally, though, I can get a quick chuckle out of my 'rabbit ears', such as when the wife complains aboot the dogs 'barking at nothing' and I can truthfully answer, 'It's not nothing -- someone 3 houses down the street slammed their car door...", much to her continued amazed annoyance [grin]...

    [And I was so sensitive to cigarette smoke growing up, both my parents had to quit smoking -- so there's always that plus, too...]
    • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

      Mon, August 20, 2007 - 9:11 AM
      I do this as well.. but it causes problems with me... I cant filter out the background so it makes listening harder..
      which pisses the missus off as she thinks I am not listening or am deaf when I go please repeat...

      but when I get tested I have minor hearing loss in my right ear (had a gun fire off right by my right ear a few years ago at a reenactment)

      • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

        Mon, August 20, 2007 - 9:13 AM
        my other sensitivities are also to cigarette smoke... I can walk into a room that is spotless at a hotel and tell if someone smoked...

        just walking around I get blasted by the reek of people who smoke ... its like bad BO to me....

        • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

          Mon, August 20, 2007 - 4:18 PM
          hmm... hadn't occurred to me that might be an effect of autism... but recently I've been really put off by our downstairs neighbors... particularly the issue is that all 3 of them smoke -- in their apartment -- constantly... There's probably not a one of them (the youngest 14) who doesn't go through at least a half a pack a day. So walking into their apartment is a challenge for me. When Tiff is down there for 20 minutes or so and comes back up, she reeks and I have a tough time kissing her because she tastes like ash to me. I used to be sensitive to smoke as a kid and thought I had outgrown it, but I guess more likely I just haven't been around it as much.
  • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

    Tue, March 27, 2007 - 10:39 PM
    tho i'm not an aspie (my brother is and so is my husband, just to re-cap) I do share some traits and being irritated by certain sounds is probably one of the main ones. I don't like the sound of a tv on in another room. Hate it. Don't like bathroom and kitchen fans.
    • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

      Tue, April 3, 2007 - 3:49 PM
      I'm not aspie, but I get seriously irritable with the radio playing.. especially talking,- I am sure its the almost out of hearing range background whistles. gets me in a bad mood in no time.. phew!
      • Unsu...

        Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

        Tue, April 3, 2007 - 4:25 PM
        The sounds of loud obnoxious jerks and lame people jabberring away in the most annoying way about nothing in particular that noone honestly wants to hear and matters in the least makes me feel like pulling my entire head of hair out....

        And speaking of which- whoa- I'm wearing shoes.....

        • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

          Mon, August 20, 2007 - 5:54 AM
          For me, I'm hyper sensitive to high-pitched sounds, to not get frustrated I just listen to my CD's to prevent myself to have a panic attack or a mental breakdown.
          • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

            Mon, October 8, 2007 - 7:59 AM
            I hate high pitched sounds, such as the screech of sound equipment being adjusted and creaking metal joints that need to be oiled. Police and firetruck sirens are also hard for me to deal with. Fortunately, they don't last very long. The Bank of America ATMs in Arizona high high pitch beeps when I push the buttons to enter my ATM code, and I can't stand them. I repeatedly ask the employees to adjust the sound, but they never do anything. Sigh.

            The sound of chewing bothers me when I focus on it. Fortunately, other sounds tend to drown out that noise, so I hardly ever notice it. I also mainly eat alone, most of the time.
    • Re: hyper-sensitivity to little sounds

      Mon, August 20, 2007 - 4:24 PM
      "I don't like the sound of a tv on in another room."

      Tiffany (my SO) seems generally to hear a lot more than I do and is generally more bothered by sounds than I am... I'm more sensitive to light and scents. But she's really intensely bothered by sounds. I find it easy to watch a YouTube video on my computer with her playing the radio on hers just a few feet away. She gets annoyed if she's watching TV and I turn my volume way down to minimum on my computer to watch a YouTube video even in the other room.

      "Hate it. Don't like bathroom and kitchen fans."

      Kitchen I can deal with if I'm cooking something that's making a lot of steam or smoke (which hopefully most food doesn't do). Bathroom I don't like, mainly because it seems like the purpose of the fan in the bathroom is to make noise rather than anything productive (I know it's to get rid of the steam, but I don't find that useful) and secondly because I find in a lot of places that they've only used one switch so it's physically impossible to turn on the light without also turning on the useless fan.

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