5 ways to cope with noise sensitivities

Noise sensitivity can impact everyday living and get in the way of learning and working. But there are ways to help keep loud or unexpected sounds from being overwhelming. Get tips for coping with sensitivity to sounds.

By Amanda Morin

Updated November 28, 2023

People with sensory processing challenges can be sensitive to loud noises and unexpected sounds. The challenges can have a big impact on everyday life. Things like fire drills, sports events, and school plays can be tough, if not impossible, to cope with.

Sound sensitivity can make it hard to filter out unimportant sounds. But it can also make it hard to tune in to important ones, like emergency sirens and other safety warnings. It’s important to be aware of how much noise is too much and to share those limits with others. 

Here are five ways to cope with noise sensitivities. 

1. Keep ear protection handy.

Earbuds, headphones, or earplugs can provide some protection from noises that can’t be avoided. Be sure they just muffle the sound and don’t block sounds out altogether. Blocking sounds out can cause safety concerns.

2. Use background noise.

Background noise can soften the impact of jarring or annoying sounds. A fan or a white noise machine may help with sleep. While out in public, try listening to light sounds using earbuds.

3. Plan ahead.

Call stores to find out their least crowded times. And prepare for unexpected sounds, like self-flushing toilets and hand dryers in public restrooms. 

4. Set boundaries.

Sounds can be a stressor, and setting boundaries may help. Say things like, “This sound hurts my ears. Can we turn the volume down?”

5. Address safety issues.

People may try to get away from loud noises quickly without noticing their surroundings. They may even tune out important sounds like alarms. Plan for these situations with others like teachers or co-workers who can help.

Find more strategies to manage sensory processing issues at home. Learn how certain sounds can lead to sensory overload.

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