If you’re living with sensory sensitivity, stimuli such as bright lights and loud noises can be overwhelming. While light and sound sensitivity can occur independently from each other, many people experience both, making everyday living difficult. There are many causes for sound and light sensitivity from neurological conditions to mood disorders. Here’s some common causes for sensory sensitivity and what you can do to help avoid sensory overload.
What is light sensitivity?
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Light sensitivity, sometimes called photophobia, is a term used when an individual finds light overly bright or bothersome. This can occur with natural light such as glare from sunlight, or artificial light such as computer screens and fluorescent lights. In adults, individuals can usually tell what is bothering them and become self-aware of the types of lights they are sensitive to. On the other hand, children who are light sensitive may not be as aware and may instead misbehave or have a “meltdown” when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Common signs of light sensitivity include:
- Being overly sensitive to sun glare, especially when others around you are not
- Squinting in brightly lit places or while staring at a computer screen
- Needing to lower the brightness on your computer screen or electronic devices
- Being bothered by fluorescent lights or being hyper-aware of any flickering
- Feeling overly uncomfortable when transitioning from darkness or dim light to bright light
What is sound sensitivity?
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Sound sensitivity occurs when someone has an intolerance for loud or persistent sounds. Sometimes this manifests by being sensitive to loud or sudden noises, while other times individuals describe feeling as though the whole world is too loud. Once again, adults are more likely to recognise triggers before feeling overwhelmed, while children may not be able to regulate sensory input. In both cases, individuals with sound sensitivity may “lash out” when they hear a loud noise or become frustrated with persistent noise such as loud voices or traffic.
Common signs of sound sensitivity include:
- A preference for quiet music over loud
- Being overly sensitive to loud or sudden sounds
- Feeling overwhelmed or avoiding noisy environments such as cafes
- An intolerance for persistent noise such as traffic or someone chewing gum
- Constantly asking friends and family to lower their voice, turn their music or TV down, or stop talking so much
What causes sound and light sensitivity?
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Sensitivity to sound and light is both a symptom and a sign of a range of different conditions. While sound sensitivity can occur independently of light sensitivity, it is most common for people with one to experience the other. Depending on the underlying cause, an individual may experience sensory sensitivity only in particular circumstances, while for others it can be a constant and chronic condition.
Some causes for light and sound sensitivity include:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Migraines and headaches
- Concussions and head injuries
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Anxiety and mood disorders
While light and sound sensitivity can be a sign of the above conditions, and more, it is not the only symptom of these disorders. In order to be diagnosed with a disorder, you will need multiple symptoms, for example migraines are usually accompanied by acute head pain, while those with autism experience a range of behaviours such as repetitive movements and fixation on certain activities or objects.
Nevertheless, if you or your child are experiencing chronic sound or light sensitivity and are not diagnosed with a disorder to explain it, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor so they can assess your sensitivity and any other symptoms that may be manifesting.
What can I do to manage sound and light sensitivity?
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Sensory sensitivity can be debilitating without support, but fortunately there are a number of tools available to help decrease sensitivity and assist with overwhelm. For individuals with light sensitivity, investing in a good pair of sunglasses will help reduce sun glare when outside or even in brightly lit rooms. If computer screens or fluorescent light are your problem, our blue light blocking glasses help filter the light from screens and fluorescents to make it easier on your eyes and brain.
For people with sound sensitivity, sometimes blocking out the noise is the best thing to reset and avoid sensory overload. Our kids sensory earmuffs have an average noise reduction rating of 26db and are suitable from six months to mid-teens. For those looking to calm themselves from both auditory and visual overstimulation, products like the vortex wireless speaker provide calming stimulation that is perfect for the end of the day.
Do you or your child suffer from sensory sensitivity? Contact us today to discuss your needs and see what products we have available to support you in your day to day management.