The world is a loud place for little ears, and it is not uncommon for children to be sensitive to sounds. While it’s true that noise sensitivity is common in children with certain medical conditions, the average child may also shy away from or become uncomfortable when confronted with loud noises. Babies may cry or fuss and toddlers may cover their ears with their hands or bury their faces into an adult’s lap to avoid the sound.
Just like adults, children can find certain sounds uncomfortable. For example, loud, irregular sounds such as fire alarms, vacuum cleaners, lawn maintenance equipment, or even the flush of a public toilet can send a child running for cover. Prolonged loud noises such as at a concert or even the volume at a typical movie may also be too much for the child to enjoy.
You can help your baby or child by minimizing their exposure to loud sounds. Understand and respect their comfort levels. If you must go somewhere loud, use foam earplugs (easily found at your local drug store) to help lessen the volume. If you routinely are exposing the child to loud sounds consider purchasing noise reduction headphones, which can be found at sporting goods stores.
Rarely, a child may be diagnosed with an extreme hypersensitivity to sound. This condition, referred to as hyperacusis involves sensitivity to common sounds that can seem unusually loud, intrusive, and sometimes painful. Interestingly, children with sound sensitivity have normal and not super-normal hearing. Hyperacusis is diagnosed by an experienced audiologist.
Parents are urged to keep track of which specific sounds irritate their child the most and share the list with any caregivers. When the child becomes distressed by exposure to sound, they should be moved away from it if possible and then comforted and reassured. Children should not be forced to stay in a situation that is causing them obvious distress.
There is no medical treatment needed for sound sensitivity. Typically, as the child grows so does their tolerance to increased volume of sound.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, February 2019
- Noise sensitivity is a common occurrence among infants and toddlers. Loud and irregular noises are often the culprit.
- Common signs of noise sensitivity include crying, clasping hands over the ears, fear of noise or noisy objects, and reluctance to participate in noisy or loud activities.
- As children grow and mature, so does their tolerance for loud noise. In the meantime, buying them inexpensive foam ear plugs can do wonders to make the child comfortable.