Noise sensitivity or something else?

Hi all, 

Got to say that even after almost a year, I'm finding understanding my triggers that are so contradictory almost impossible. 

Today I've had to come home sick from sensory overload because of some heavy hammering being done behind me with no warning. 

There's plenty of evidence that I struggle with sensory issues.   However there's also contradictions.  Give me a hammer and I'll happily hit things on occasion. 

Is there some subtlety around sensory overload around lack of anticipation that makes the difference? 

Do other autistic people find their sensory issues simpler, whether they're creating the noise or not? 



  • Hi Craig, 

    I work with adults with learning disabilities and some of our clients are also on the autistic spectrum. 

    From what I've been taught, and as you suspect, it is, I believe, to do with sudden and unexpected noise. 

    When someone is making the noise themselves, they are of course in control of when it happens and so can predict it. 

    I can think of several people I support who are very noise sensitive who will scream & shout in reaction to the noise of others but who are also very noisy people themselves. Their noise cuts through the other noise, blocking it out and/or silencing the other person. 

    I've heard that there's another theory about ASC (other than it being a social communication condition) that places emphasis on the challenge of (not) knowing 'what comes next' for people with ASC. I think this theory is called 'predictive coding'. May be worth a look to see what it has to say about sudden noise stimulus. 


  • Hi Craig,

    I have thought about this issue myself, and I think it's about control. I have huge sensory issues with noise, one of my worse ones is people using those Dyson hand dryers in public toilets, but I use them myself! If I use one myself (or a hammer, drill, whatever) I'm prepared for the noise, and can tolerate it as I can control it, but if other people create the noise, especially if it's unexpected, or lasts a long time, it can literally make me so distressed I scream/cry/cover my ears. The worse thing is if I accidentally set one off as I walk past it, that can make me jump out of my skin. I feel like a hypocrite sometimes, as other people don't get the control thing! So it's not just you

  • Great question Craig. This was one of the do I or don't I have a sensory issue before I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Condition.

    The things that trigger me off are and sudden clanging of cutlery any slamming next to me just basically any sudden sharp noise that is in close proximity to myself whether being at home or at work. But the funny thing is if I do it I can handle it better. I'm guessing it's because of the knowing what's coming next?

    The effect sudden noise has on me can result in either sudden moodiness, or on occasions maybe depending on my anxiety levels at the time, I have also experienced sensory input that servere that my eyes have wobbled side to side like a cartoon character.

  • I can't handle sirens - they often make me cry - but I love live music gigs and play in a band myself. I struggle more or less depending on how I'm doing on a particular day but some days I cannot handle loud speaker announcements, they kind of produce a physical revulsion in me and I need to get away from it or distract myself especially if the words are unclear. Some shops I can't go in if there is a combination of lights and sounds (computer shops are the worst) but then thunder and lightening I love. Also if am making the noise myself I'm fine.

  • Thanks for the replies everyone :) It has been a struggle to build a model of things that doesn't have glaring contradictions in it.  Predictability is definitely something that is fitting in much better than sensory difficulties.