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How Sound Sensitivity & ADHD are Related?
Some people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) might experience sensory overload, where they feel a little off when it comes to a particular or multiple stimuli. In addition to being easily distracted due to our thoughts, sensory overload can also distract us😵. Here’s the thing: some people with ADHD may lose more than their ability to pay attention when sensory overload takes over - they may also lose handle on their emotions. They might break things or even lash out.
For instance, someone may experience sound sensitivity.
According to data analysis regarding the population of people with ADHD, auditory sensitivity👂 isn't something that everyone experiences; however, some people really experience it. You see, many people with ADHD can continue their daily lives and disregard the loud sounds📢 they encounter. But, there are others who have difficulties managing how they react to sounds. This can trigger🚨 their ADHD symptoms.
An ADHD person with an extreme reaction to sound stimuli usually finds that it’s a real struggle😔, particularly when they need to focus or finish a deadline. They cannot concentrate because of the physical sensitivities happening inside their ears👂. Here’s another point: the reaction to sound sensitivity can be extremely frustrating😖, not just for the person with ADHD but also for the people around them.
ADHD & Misophonia
When certain sounds, usually ordinary ones that don’t appear to affect the general population, can make us feel intense emotions, we may be experiencing "misophonia."
Simply put, misophonia pertains to a strong dislike of certain sounds. This “disgust”🤢 can trigger intense emotions and even the fight or flight response.
Hearing other people's loud yawns 🥱, chewing 😋, or even heavy breathing 😮💨can send us into a fit of anger or disgust.
Our ADHD brain 🧠 reacts to these stimuli, and we can't help but be bothered by them. The emotional responses can cause us to lash out or withdraw from the person making the noise. The worst-case scenario? It can affect our work performance and social life.
Researchers studied 👩⚕️📝 misophonia and found that this mental health condition can occur separately from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In other words, this form of sound sensory overload can happen on its own. However, there is also a strong possibility that misophonia is an ADHD comorbidity or part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Misophonia can cause someone to be overly emotional or react aggressively to specific sounds. They tend to avoid places or gatherings where sounds that can trigger their condition are more likely to be present. This is one of their strategies to prevent social awkwardness or conflicts because other people may not understand their struggles or health condition.
The Trouble of Hearing Everything Around Us
Let me share one of my experiences regarding managing sensory over-responsivity. It happened when I was sitting comfortably 💺 in front of my working space. I was calmly doing research 👩💻 about something that interested me when someone approached me, asked how I am doing, and continuously chatted with me.
At first, I was okay with the conversation and even had fun talking to her. But when things slowed down a bit, she started to open a bag of chips 🥡 right beside me, worked with her stuff, and created loud sounds while munching her snack. The trouble I struggled with wasn't evident with the first few bites she did, but when a couple of minutes passed⌚, I became agitated 😤.
The munching sound she made, as well as the act of her opening and closing the bag, became more bothersome to me 😨, to the point that I started to get a headache and could not continue to look at my computer screen. It was too much for my brain to handle, so I politely asked her if she could stop or do it elsewhere. She gave me the cold shoulder and said I was too sensitive. From that experience, I learned that some people do not understand the struggle of others when it comes to managing their sensory reactions 😥.
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The Effects of Sensory Overload on Some People with ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the neurodevelopmental disorders that can be too much to handle 😩. Aside from the common symptoms of ADHD, like hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention, there are still lesser-known struggles that can affect our mental health. One such struggle is the constant battle with their sensory processing.
Our five senses can work together to give us information about the world around us. But for some people with ADHD, their senses can be too much for their brains to handle. This can lead to what we call "sensory overload." When our brain is bombarded with too much information from our senses 🤯, it can cause us to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.
For example, some ADHD adults, compared with neurotypical people, cannot peacefully pass by an active construction site. The loud banging they hear can be too much for them, leading to a meltdown 😰. We also tend to experience intense auditory sensitivity in a crowded place where many people are talking simultaneously or when there's too much background noise. It can be hard to filter out critical information, and we can easily get distracted.
According to peer-reviewed studies, there's a possibility that people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can experience pain from sounds 🎹. Hyperacusis, a disorder in loudness perception, happens when some people with ADHD can feel physical pain because of noise, especially loud noise 🔔.
Research 📋 suggests that Hyperacusis can be most common in children with ADHD and is sometimes felt by those affected with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Aside from physical pain, loud sounds can eventually predispose them to developmental disabilities (avoidant disorder), social anxiety, and communication difficulties.
When we become too afraid 🥺 of all the ADHD symptoms plus sound sensitivity and its effects, we may struggle to find our ground, and it can be hard to relax.
We might have a higher level of anxiety when we are in public or when there's too much noise. It can be hard to focus on the task at hand, and we may feel like we are not in control of our surroundings.
This can be quite the struggle because we truly are not, in many cases, in control of our environment. A neighbor's continuous noise 🏘️, the dog's bark 🐕, and a crying baby 👶 can trigger our anxiety. It can also be hard to fall asleep 🛌🏽 at night when we constantly think about the different stimuli we are experiencing.
Making ADHD & Sound Sensitivity More Manageable
Attention Deficit Hyeractivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Overload can be difficult to manage because we cannot control our surroundings. Even if we try to tolerate the noise, many people with ADHD, compared to neurotypicals, can find it hard to do so.
There are different ways we can make our condition more manageable 🤔. Here are some tips on how to address sound susceptibility and put healthy controls in our daily lives:
- Finding the proper treatment to address your ADHD symptoms, which can include treatment options like stimulant medication 💊 (effects are for improved focus), cognitive behavioral therapy (managing our responses), or neurofeedback therapy (retraining our brainwaves).
- When we cannot fully control the external noises and we need to focus on things we need to do, wearing earplugs 🎧 can help us subtly with our sound difficulties.
- Gradually exposing our five senses to different stimuli can help us ease into them and get used to them over time 📅. This can be done by starting with lower sound frequencies and working our way up. Tricking our brain can also help by listening to white noise or other calming sounds that can help us focus on the task.
- Spending time in nature 🌊 🌴 can be an excellent way to reset and recharge from all the hustle and bustle of city living. Being in an environment with no man-made noises can help us feel more relaxed and at peace.
Though according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, sensory overload, such as those involving sound stimuli, isn't considered an official Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptom unlike in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases, it can still be a challenge for us to deal with on a day-to-day 📅 basis.
The bottom line is that even if auditory sensitivity is not a core ADHD symptom, it is still essential for us to be aware of how we can manage our symptoms, especially when it feels like everything around us is too loud. Our struggle doesn't make us weak, and we are not alone in this 💏. Let's continue to spread awareness and work together 🤝 to find ways that make our lives more manageable.
ADHD and Sounds Sensitivity: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is sound sensitivity?
Sound or auditory sensitivity 👂🎶 happens when we have heightened sensitivity to some sounds or react strongly to them. It is one form of sensory overload, a symptom associated with ADHD.
Is sound sensitivity a symptom of ADHD?
While it is a possible comorbid condition, sound sensitivity is NOT ❌ an official symptom. Still, some adults with this neurodivergent condition can relate to it.
How does sound sensitivity manifest?
Sound sensitivity can manifest in several ways, like misophonia and hyperacusis. Misophonia happens when common sounds, like yawning 🥱 and munching 😋, can trigger intense reactions. Hyperacusis occurs when sounds can initiate physical pain 🤕, particularly in the ears.