Sound sensitivity, or auditory sensitivity, describes both too much and too little sensory response to sound – sound being one of our eight key senses. Sound hypersensitivity, when we find some sounds so intense that they are painfully loud, is also known as hyperacusis ← click here for that entry. if we struggle to hear sounds that are audibly obvious to most people, then we are described as hyposensitive to them.

Sound sensitivity is not exclusive to neurodivergent people but it is incredibly common for us – far more so than the wider population. We are also more likely to experience tinnitus as a co-occurring condition. We are unlikely to be someone who is hypersensitive to ALL sounds or hyposensitive to ALL sounds. More commonly, there will be some sounds that are painful to us and others we barely register. There will also be many sounds that we experience just the same as everyone else – indifferently.

Signs of sound sensitivity may include some of these, all of these, and are not limited to the following:

Hypersensitive (hyperacusis) examples

  • Low pitched droning sounds feel like torture and it’s difficult to work out if the sound is in our heads or in the room.
  • High pitched squealing sounds are also torture.
  • These particular pitches cause us psychological and physical distress and cannot be ignored.
  • They prevent us from enjoying an experience and from being able to concentrate on a task.
  • Exposure to sounds we are hypersensitive to can lead to sensory overwhelm and meltdowns.
  • Headphones, particularly in-ear ones, can feel too intense and give us extreme discomfort and headaches.
  • Autistic people with hyperacusis or also more susceptible to tinnitus as a co-occurring condition.

Hyposensitive examples

  • We often vocalise less as babies and young children.
  • We are likely to speak louder than would be considered socially expected, without being aware that we are doing so.
  • We enjoy very loud music, we have the TV on a high volume, we enjoy being immersed inside headphones.
  • We can walk straight past someone who calls our name and not even register it.
  • We struggle to identify the source of sounds.
  • We can remain blissfully unaware to sounds that others would consider intrusive.
  • We tend to talk ourselves through tasks out loud.
  • We struggle to remember verbal instructions.

Click on either of these red links to return to those pages: hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.