Hearing Hypersensitivities Can Impact Learning

white_boy_red_covering_earsWritten By Dorinne S. Davis -Kalugin, MA, CCC-A, FAAA, RCTC, BARA
President Davis Centers, Inc, Budd Lake, NJ

There are many types of hypersensitivities to sound demonstrated by: crying when the vacuum is on, screaming when a fire alarm goes off, covering the ears when there are too many people in the room, shutting out or tuning out when there is too much sound to process, turning the TV volume up, refusing to go into a bathroom, covering the ears when there appears to be few sounds around, and/or noticing an airplane’s presence 10 minutes before everyone else.  The adopted child, more specifically those from  international adoptions or drug dependent mothers, often exhibits the previously mentioned symptoms.

How do these hypersensitivities impact a child’s development?  When a child is sensitive to sound, it diminishes their attention span because the excessive background noise is distracting and disturbing.  For example, think about having to listen to someone speaking for one hour while someone else scratches their fingernails on a blackboard.  Typically, one’s nerves get on edge, they  miss the gist of what was said, they start moving around in their seats, they cover their ears, they “tune out”, or they might shout out “stop that noise!”.  If they listen intermittently, their receptive and expressive language skills will be   negatively impacted.

What is little known is that these hearing issues affect vestibular functions like gross motor issues, fine motor skills, sensory intergration, oral motor skills, reading, spelling, listening, attention, focus and organizational skills.  Further, some children can develop auditory processing timing lags.  These issues impact a child’s overall development.

There are 3 types of measurable hearing sensitivities.  One is demonstrated with testing of hearing function.  The second is measured through bone conduction sound stimulation.  The third is demonstrated by diagnostic otoacoustic emission testing.  Some people have one, two, or all three types of hearing sensitivities.  It is important to determine which ones are present when a child demonstrates any of the hypersensitivity symptoms.  A special test battery has been developed that can determine if hypersensitivities are present.

The next question is what can be done if hypersensitivities are present?  The effectiveness of sound based therapies as a form of intervention has been explored.  When the type of hypersensitivity has been identified, an appropriate sound based therapy is suggested.  In some cases, more than one therapy may be   suggested.  Many sound therapies are available.  Choosing the appropriate one is the key to success.

Each child is different.  Help is available for any child with hypersensitivity to sound.  The first step is appropriate testing to determine the appropriate  corrective intervention.

For more information on sensory issues or the Davis Centers please visit their website:

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