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Did You Hear That? Autism and sound

A set of black headphones against a bright yellow background

By Chris

This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.

This is another sensory blog. This one is related to sound. This blog is about some of the auditory issues such as hearing difficulties that Autistic people often struggle to cope with.

Let’s get started with an especially difficult condition called Auditory Processing Disorder. The modern thought on the condition is that the brain of an Autistic person is unable to process the enormous amount of sound of every day life. This is incorrect. The cause is that we hear absolutely every sound around us which makes it impossible to pull the single thread of sound from the ball of tangled ball of sound-yarn. I myself have been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder and when it is noisy it’s hard to understand a person talking right next to me but when it’s quiet I can hear individual sounds over a distance of more than a kilometre with relative ease.

There are many issues with my having a heightened sense of hearing: I can’t stand fireworks, parties, night clubs, or anywhere there’s loud noise. That’s almost everywhere outside of my own house so most days I’m content to stay home and enjoy the peace and quiet of my single room flat. I can’t even tolerate living with other people.

Some helpful tools include ear plugs, noise cancelling headphones, and living in the country. The headphones actually work very well. It doesn’t cancel out noise 100%, nothing can do that, but it reduces the noise to a more tolerable level. That makes things much easier to cope with out there in the big, bad world. The best part is they come in an incredible variety of styles, sizes and colours. The down side is the better ones can be very expensive, up to $500+ in Australia.

If you’re on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) for Autism, the noise cancelling headphones can be purchased through cooperative vendors or reimbursed through your plan manager or directly, if you’re not plan managed as they relate directly to treating Autistic auditory difficulties.

Alternatively, there are Autistic people whose Autism makes it difficult to hear the sounds around them or even cause deafness. This is what I would call Auditory Processing Disorder if I had the power to change the way things are labelled. These are the people who cannot hear because they’re Autistic. It’s the other side of the coin from having over-sensitive (or heightened) hearing. There are treatments for this as well, such as hearing aids.

Both conditions make life for Autistic people more difficult than it should be. Loud neighbours are a special kind of hell, especially the type that bring people over and have impromptu ‘gatherings’. If you live next to someone with Autism do show them a little courtesy and keep the noise down.

There is a minor caveat – Auditory Processing Disorder can exist without the individual being Autistic. Though it is very rare for this to occur, it does happen from time to time.


Hi I’m Chris. I’m a 44 year old Autistic Person. Originally from California, I ran away to Australia as soon as I could. Raised in the country, life wasn’t easy with an invisible neurological difference especially when that difference wasn’t even widely known about. On top of that I didn’t even get a diagnosis until I was 39 years old. Looking back I now realise how miserable I was and how badly I was being treated by everyone. Looking forward I want to leave behind some small piece of myself that maybe, if I’m lucky, might make a positive impact.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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