Last month, my husband decided he wanted to put an egress window into our basement over the weekend. Since we works for a place that does stone cutting, he brought a saw designed to cut through concrete block home that Friday and demonstrated it for me.
I knew as soon as he turned it on that I wouldn’t be able to handle the noise. The engine alone put my teeth on edge. When he set the blade to one of the boulders, and that horrid screech sounded, I had to run for the house, because I thought I was going to vomit from the pain.
Needless to say, the window didn’t get put in. It won’t get put in until we can get the cats and me out of ear shot. I don’t know how anyone can tolerate that noise.
That was an extreme example, but I’ve always been hyper-sensitive to sound. Back when I was studying Aikido, the only people who could sneak up on me during class were the teachers and advanced students. I could hear the sound of most people’s feet shuffling on the canvas mat.
In school, I couldn’t tune out background noise, and that’s still the case today. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the slightest sound, which also still happens. I also have trouble understanding words spoken in a deep voice, while treble in songs can cause pain when turned up too high. It’s very frustrating, especially when I have to talk on the phone. I hate talking on the phone.
Because of those symptoms, and others, I often wonder if I have an Audio Processing Disorder in addition to my dyslexia. I’ve never been tested, but I do recall exhibiting some of the red flags as a child. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Frequent, multiple requests to repeat what was just said
- Over- or under-sensitivity to neutral sounds
- Inability to tune out background noise (can look like plain old inattentiveness)
- Difficulty learning language skills – speaking, reading, writing
- Volume is often turned up too high or down too low on radio, TV, etc
- Chronic melt downs in environments with a lot of noise, like stores
- Potty training difficulties related to the toilet flush (it’s often too loud, and ends up being frightening)
- Beginning speech delayed (I didn’t start to speak with words until I was around 2)
If you do notice these, it’s not the end of the world, I promise. An audiologist might be able to help with a diagnosis, and certain types of occupational therapy can help minimize discomfort down the road.
If you’re an adult with similar symptoms, a diagnosis and therapy might help, if you can afford it. (I can’t thus far.) Otherwise, here are a few coping mechanisms that help me:
- Ambient noise at night – I use an air purifier set at low. It helps with my breathing, and masks some noises outside the room.
- Soft music while working. For me, it either needs to be instrumental, in a foreign language or a song I’ve heard countless times before.
- Ear buds with soothing music when in noisy public areas
- Established quiet times every night
Try not to rely too much on headphones, ear plugs or ear buds, though. Using them too often can actually increase your sensitivity to noise.
While this can be a problematic disorder, it is something that can be lived with.