By Charlotte Mellor
Over the past 6 months, perhaps slightly longer you may or may not have noticed Scarlett has been sporting some snazzy new head gear, I have been asked lots about the what, whys and where’s she has been using her ear defenders so I have decided to do a little research and find out just why it is Scarlett is finding much comfort in using them.
Scarlett has always been slightly sensitive to sound, now not all sounds and it is nothing to do with volume either as she is very happy to be exposed to loud noises but of a certain type. I did in the past write an article about auditory processing and why some people who are visually impaired can struggle with certain sounds.
” Scarlett’s response to certain sounds in the environment can have a massive effect on her ability to function properly. In particular she demonstrates clear signs of going into ‘sensory overload’ and can adopt the fetal position and cover her ears when it all becomes far too much. This can take the enjoyment out of many activities for Scarlett and she can become distressed. I can imagine many parent’s can identify, especially with the summer holidays about to commence the troubles that sound can cause.”
There is so much to consider when looking at issues relating to sound and visual impairment in terms of environment, source, child’s mood and understanding, which I go into further detail with in the Sensory Processing Disorders and Audio Overload- What is it and how can we prevent it? article.
So ear defenders! Why do we use them and how do they help?
Background noise is a constant nuisance and causes major difficulty when it comes to processing information and sorting the important from the unimportant.
It is for this reason that noise reducing headphones or earmuffs can come in very handy in loud spaces. Headphones can lower the overall decibel rate of background noise while still allowing your child to hear someone speaking to them.
To expel a couple of myths….
- Scarlett can still hear through them and can happily follow commands and hear the environment and my voice when she wears them.
- No music is not playing through them.
Scarlett uses her hands to cover her ears a lot. Sometimes I expect it is to ease some sort of anxiety she is experiencing when being exposed to a plethora of unknown sounds, secondly I think it has become a habit similar to perhaps cowering away or when a child hides behind their mum. I expect some noises are just very painful for her to hear and she does become very overloaded sometime with the sounds of the environment it can hinder the activity that she is doing. For example, Scarlett’s school use her ear defenders during lunch time as it is a very busy and noisy time which can hinder her eating, so the school find using them at this particular time useful.
Other times ear defenders are useful…..
- At children’s parties.
- Where it is particularly windy- I am not sure why this is but I expect she has some form of sensitivity to wind.
- At the swimming pool- perhaps it is due to the acoustics of the space.
- Busy parks and streets
- Fun Fares
Examples of times that ear defenders has saved the day…
Scarlett has always been a lover of the beach, such a wonderful array of senses for her to explore, plus water, open spaces! But this year whilst visiting the beach she became very distressed, despite being a lovely day she was very reluctant to get out of the pram. Popped the ear defenders on, and hey presto she was in the sand, the sea, the dunes. Later on we removed the ear defenders with no resistance and she happily enjoyed the beach.
The school swimming pool! Something happened one day to Scarlett and my once swimming pool loving water baby developed some anxiety relating to going swimming with school. The Seashell Trust were fantastic and week by week slowly built up her confidence with making it into the pool, some days she just got changed into her costume and had a shower in the changing rooms, some days she sat by the side of the pool playing with water and some days she just downright refused to go anywhere near. After the introduction of the ear defenders Scarlett was able to go further into the pool than she had done in weeks. A massive success!
Now, as I have explained in previous posts Scarlett has additional needs on top of her sight impairment and children with autism and auditory processing disorders also use ear defenders to aid them when out in noisy and busy environments. So I suppose what I am saying is that Scarlett finding help with using ear defenders may be due to a condition in which she is unable to process what she hears in the same way other children do because her ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. Something interferes with the way the brain recognises and interprets sounds. Rather than it being due to her blindness.
What I can say is that they are a massive help to myself and to Scarlett and if you find that your child may be experiencing some concentration or anxiety issues with relation to sound then ear defenders may be worth exploring, cheap and easily available on the internet, they potentially might just do the trick!