What You Should Know When Choosing an Autism Headphone?
- 21 Nov, 2018
Autism is probably among the toughest conditions many people deal with. Those suffering from this have an acute sensitivity to sound such as sensitivity to people chewing or buzzing of fluorescent lights. The main characteristic of this condition being the difficulty to communicate with others.
For those suffering from autism, headphones can do more than just provide a fun and convenient way of listening to music. Headphones can come in handy for those who need to cope with the noisy world around them. In the search for the best product, below are some highlights on what you should know when choosing an autism headphone.
How autism affects sound processing
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder process information slightly different. One of the common effects of this disorder is an overly extreme sensitivity to sounds. To begin, all the senses in the bodywork in the same basic way. Nerve endings receive information from the environment and transmit it to the brain. The mechanism through which this occurs differs.
As for the ears, the ear receives the sound in the form of air pressure, converts it to vibrations that are picked up by nerves. These are then transmitted to the brain in a stream of nerve impulses that are recognized as sound. However, people with Autism have a sensory processing disorder.
In their case, information generated by the senses are interpreted differently. This affects the way one perceives the environment and changes how autistic people react to the information.
In some cases, these effects are beneficial while others can be distracting, distressing and uncomfortable. One of the beneficial effects of the autistic condition is the fact that autistic children are better in detecting movements and various patterns compared to neurotypical people.
The actual effects of autism differ between individuals. Whereas some have hyposensitivity, where they only react to extremely strong stimuli, others experience hypersensitivity, a common effect that one requires excellent coping strategies.
Hypersensitivity to Sound
This manifests in different ways, the common being that the affected people become more aware of sounds, including quiet sounds, more than a neurotypical person staying in the same environment. This can result in any of the following;
- Environmental sound may seem magnified and become distorted, painful or confused.
- Very quiet sounds such as distant conversations may be easily heard.
- Background sound gets ignored and filtered out resulting in constant distraction.
Hypersensitive autistic people may find it difficult to cope with considerably normal levels of noise. Distant traffic noise, tickling noise or constant hums emitted by electrical devices are distractions too obvious to be ignored. However, sounds such as closing doors that most people find them perfectly acceptable are unbearably loud and frightening for autistic people.
This can have a significant impact on such people’s aspect of life. They may be unable to relax or even get a good sleep. This explains the reason why many people with autism spectrum disorder suffer from sleep disorders.
Besides, concentrating on one task becomes almost impossible. Interacting with others is also a challenge as it is impossible to separate conversations from other external noise, even those that seem quiet.
Why do autistic people use headphones?
Besides their condition, autistic people use headphones for the same reasons many other people do; listening to music, radio or audio files. However, due to their condition, autistic people benefit more from using headphones. As mentioned before, autistic people suffer from acute sensitivity to sound.
Therefore, autism-related reasons for using headphones are mainly sensory. Unlike other people, autistic persons find it difficult to ignore irrelevant information automatically. They also find it difficult to work and get used to background noise. High-pitched, loud, unpredictable and chaotic sounds affect their functionality.
Many autistic people can cope with a noisy environment with a lot of effort. If they are listening to something specific, there are high chances that they may lose the message amidst external noise. Therefore, in order to remain sane and conserve energy, most autistic people prefer wearing headphones, with or without music. This filters out irrelevant noise that normal neurotypicals easily ignore.
Benefits of headphones for autistic people
The benefits of headphone use for autistic people are pretty obvious. With their impending condition, autistic people benefit from headphones in two main ways.
- To filter out the external noise. These people are highly sensitive to noise. Therefore, they require noise-canceling headphones to avoid an overload of sensory stimuli.
- Listening to music or audio files. Even people without autism enjoy this common benefit from headphones. We all benefit from headphones by listening to a favorite song, book or any other audio file.
Where do autistic children and adults need autism headphones?
As explained before, children and adults with autism have a low threshold for sensory stimuli. This means that it doesn’t take much for them to be overstimulated, overwhelmed, avoidant or irritated. This characteristic limits a child’s ability to play, feel safe or comfortable and explore his/her environment. Similarly, adults find it difficult to interact with their peers due to constant distortions.
Most behaviors seen in autistic people are coping strategies for their hypersensitivity to sound. For instance, children may repeatedly cover their ears to protect themselves from external noise that they find unpleasant or distracting. A person can also make humming noise in a bid to mask any infiltrating background noise. For classroom scenarios, classroom noise canceling headphones are perfect.
The problem with these coping strategies is that whereas they can be effective in dealing with hypersensitivity, they often result in limited social interactions. Standard coping strategies basically involves avoiding places with loud or confusing noise and soundproofing.
That said, if the avoidant strategies aren’t possible, a child or adult may need autistic headphones. Some of the places where autism headphones come in handy include:
- Public places such as in the town, halls
- School bus
- School cafeteria
- Movie theaters
- Loud and echo-prone rooms
- Grocery store
- Shopping malls
Noise canceling Vs. Noise isolating headphones; Which one is better for autism?
Noise canceling and noise isolating headphones are both effective to be used by autistic persons. However, the mechanism through which they work differs greatly. For instance, noise-canceling headphones work by using the physics of sound waves. They have a “counter wave” that cancels the outside noise, often referred to as the destructive interference.
Noise-canceling headphones for autism can’t predict random noise thus more effective for use in areas with predictable and monotone sounds. Active noise-canceling headphones have a microphone, amplifier and a speaker that picks up amplifies and plays ambient noise in a reversed form. This cancels out the unwanted noise from the environment without affecting the desired sound source.
On the other hand, noise-isolating headphones otherwise known as noise blocking headphones cover your ear and block sound waves from interfering with your source of sound. The best noise reduction headphones for adults with autism form a physical barrier between the ear and sounds around you.
Of the two, noise-canceling headphones are better for autistic people. This is purely based on its working formula. By detecting incoming sounds and emitting signals on the opposite phase, they basically cancel out external noise. By canceling out various distractions, users can sit in virtual silence.
What to consider when choosing noise-canceling headphones
Despite being a good choice for autistic people, there are several things to consider when searching for noise-canceling headphones. Some of the essential things to consider include;
- Comfort – if the headphones are quite uncomfortable, your child will certainly be uncomfortable to put them on. Note that autistic children who are hypersensitive to sound are also sensitive to physical sensations and texture of external objects. Therefore, consider a set that completely encloses the ears rather than those sitting flat on the ear.
- Material of the earcup – some manufacturers use synthetic materials that trap moisture resulting in an unpleasant clammy feeling. The best is the inert protein cushioning that is not only long lasting but also comfortable.
- Noise reduction ability – some models are good in reducing low frequency sounds effectively but less effective in canceling high-frequency sounds. Unfortunately, most noise that cause problems for people with autism spectrum disorders are highly pitched. To solve this, consider headphones that feature full-spectrum noise reduction. Those that reduce sounds by 25dB are better.
Top noise canceling headphones for autism
Having outlined the basics and importance of autism headphones, it is best if you get a clue on the few headphones that can work best. All these models are safe to wear, effective and overly comfortable. They are also affordable and feature packed. They include;
Pro For Sho Earmuffs
These proactive earmuffs have no audio association. They function to reduce the amount of noise while providing comfort to autistic persons. Whereas experts recommend that autistic people use headphones with at least 25dB noise reduction capacity, the Pro For Sho Earmuffs features 34dB protection. It is lightweight and the best headphones for autistic adults.
With such noise blocking capacity, these noise canceling headphones for adults block a lot. However, you will be able to hear some essential things such as a ringing phone and basic conversations. They work excellently on several occasions including sporting events and parties with lots of noise.
As for the comfort, they are padded with a headband featuring heavy padding. The padding is divided into equal sectors, which is important in providing comfort to all pressure points.
The Clear Armor 141001
Those looking for ultimate comfort in earmuffs will find the Clear Armor 141001 a perfect choice. Compared to other models, they have extremely thick padding that cannot be compared to any other model available on the market.
They not only reduce the sound but also reduce the amount of vibrations entering the ears. It has a sound blocking shell on the outer layer that meets with the acoustic foam padding. You will also like the sound ring that is responsible for reducing harmful vibrations.
Unlike our first product, the Clear Armor 141001 reduces up to 31 decibels of sound. Earcups swivel enough to provide the right fit. The headphones are also foldable making them portable and easy to store. They are a good choice of autism headphones for school.
Some of the frequently asked questions include;
Should I choose autism earplugs or headphones?
Autism earplugs are the cheapest solution for autistic people compared to headphones. The choice of either of the two products solely depends on the user. However, earplugs may not be as effective as headphones due to their fit. Earplugs need to be placed in the ear properly for them to be effective. They are also placed deep into the ear canal, that can cause them to swell due to inflammation and can result in ear infection.
What size of headphones is suitable for autism people?
Headphones come in various sizes. Autistic people will need to shop around and find the perfect size for their head. For instance, infant and toddlers use small sized headphones compared to adults.
How long is the appropriate time to wear autism headphones?
Despite being helpful, it isn’t a good idea to have your child or an adult wear autism headphones all the time. There is no appropriate time length for wearing them, but it is advisable that you only wear them when necessary. Wearing them all the time may result in over-reliance.
If you are a parent of an autistic child or suffering from autism, finding the best coping strategies can be difficult. Besides, there is no magic solution that has been proven to be effective for this. However, there is resounding evidence that hypersensitivity to sound brought along by autism can be bettered by using autism headphones.
Having a clear understanding of what you should know when choosing an autism headphone is the first step towards finding a comfortable solution for your child. For children, identify their main source of irritant noise; find the best headphones for autistic child and advice on proper use.
Adults with autism spectrum disorder can help in making a choice of autism headphones for adults. They can choose from a variety, ranging from noise canceling, noise isolating headphones or earplugs.
Bearing this in mind, do you think our guide has helped you make a good choice of music headphones for autism? Share with us in the comments section below.