Auditory Sensitivity by Dr. Jay Lucker
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The startle to loud sounds MAY have nothing to do with hearing or the auditory system at all.

He did a study of 133 children NOT in the autism spectrum who came to him for auditory processing assessments with one complaint from at least two independent sources that they had auditory hypersensitivity (startled and covered their ears or lost behavior control in the presence of loud sounds).
He tested the loudness tolerance for all 133 children and found the following:

ONLY 9% had tolerance levels lower than the loudest or most intense signal on the audiological equipment he could give them = 110dBHL.
FYI: Normal conversation is around 50 dBHL, twice that loudness is loud conversation (60dBHL), twice that loudness is yelling or screaming (70dBHL), twice that loudness would be yelling right next to someone's ear (80dBHL), twice that loudness would be screaming directly into a person's ear (90dBHL).

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) says if you work in an environment that has 90 dB or greater sound, you must wear hearing protection!!!!
twice as loud as 90dB = 100dBHL, and twice that loudness = 110dBHL.

Thus, only 9% of 133 children presenting with what people describe as auditory hypersensitivity shows an auditory sensitivity (cannot tolerate sound four times louder than someone screaming directly into your ears.
Thus, 91% or an over, overwhelming number of children described as having auditory hypersensitivity have absolutely NO Problems tolerating extremely loud sounds.

His take on this, in an article he has completed and submitted for
publication:
The problem is NOT sound being too loud but the child's FEAR and FEAR reactions to the loud sound and (most importantly) to the situation in which the loud sound exists.
ThIS leads to what he calls phonophobia or fear of sound.

Treatment is NOT removing the sound or removing the child from the sound.
Desensitize the child to the sound and the loud sound situations.
Validate the sounds are loud and annoying (never use negative words like FEARFUL or FRIGHTENING).
Help the child feel as comfortable as possible in the situation even if you put your hands over your ears.
Tell the child what he/she needs to do (give them socially appropriate behavioral responses to the sound).

Then, if the problem is found to be an AUDITORY based issue, you can try what they call a sound based intervention.
But, you'd need to have the child assessed to see if the problem has real auditory basis and not emotional basis.

Hope this is helpful.

Dr. Jay R. Lucker
drj@ncapd.org

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