Thursday, June 3, 2021

Sound Dampening for Autistic People with Auditory Sensitivity

A small group of people, seen from behind, standing between bookshelves in a library, under a large white suspended sound dampening board.
Photo © Jisc InfoNet | Flickr / Creative Commons
[image: A small group of people, seen from behind, standing between
bookshelves in a library, under a large white suspended sound dampening board.]


Autistic Science Person
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Sound dampening a space, especially at home, can be helpful for a lot of reasons. Many homes have appliances which can emit high-frequency noise from electricity that many non-autistic people can’t hear, but many autistic people can. Further, many autistic people have auditory sensitivity, and sounds can be a reason for sensory overload.

Although some autistic people can wear headphones, earplugs, or ear defenders to reduce sound, other autistic people cannot use ear protection because of touch sensitivity around their ears or head. Further, autistic people who have auditory sensitivity and/or hyperacusis have to constantly try to shield themselves from noise to reduce fatigue, pain, and sensory overload. 

Having a space at home where they don’t have to keep their guard up due to noises can be really helpful in lowering stress and fatigue. If one autistic person has auditory sensitivity but another person in the family needs to vocally stim or make noise, sound dampening can be a really important and necessary tool to make the home welcoming for both people.

How to Sound Dampen Your Space

If you're wondering how to apply acoustic foam/where to put it in the space, explore this relatively helpful guide. Note that you likely want only the "absorption" aspects listed rather than "diffusion" that the article talks about, and the type of acoustic foam depends on the person. For me, I don't need the foam that dampens low frequencies, but I do need the acoustic foam that dampens mid- and high- frequencies.

First Steps

For a really cheap way to soundproof a room, consider buying weatherstripping for your door, along with a door sweep (called a transom seal) to keep the noise outside of the room. If you can see light coming through the door frame, then sound can get through too. You can also put weather stripping on the windows as well to help keep the noise out. If you do have a budget, buying a solid wooden door as opposed to a hollow one can also do a good job at keeping the noise out as well.

For further soundproofing, especially if you don’t have money for acoustic panels or foam, you can also hang blankets on the walls or doors to help dampen the sound. If you do have a budget for this, you can buy acoustic foam or acoustic panels to put on the walls. The 4” pyramid foam or wedge foam can help dampen mid- and high-frequencies.

If you do have some money and are considering soundproofing a room for an autistic person with auditory sensitivity, I recently was recommended the website of Foam N' More, which has quite reasonably priced (and effective) acoustic foam.

To apply acoustic foam, especially if concerned about wall damage, one can use command strips which are easier to take off of walls. Other options include adhesive spray or double-sided tape (tape may not hold up the foam on the wall if it’s in very large chunks, but may work if it’s made up of smaller 1-foot tiles). If low frequencies are the main problem, then you would want to consider buying bass traps, which are denser and thicker foam pieces to try and absorb the low-frequency sound, as the other types of foam likely won’t help with low frequencies much.

If you do have a budget to spend, one person even created a quiet sensory box using a large cardboard box and acoustic foam on both the outside and inside of the box!

Here is a much more advanced/technical tutorial of how to soundproof your space which includes tips on how to create your own acoustic panels, and the best places to place acoustic panels/acoustic foam in your room.

Need Sound Dampening and Low on Funds?

I created a ko-fi account with the specific goal to give acoustic foam to autistic kids with auditory sensitivity, and their families who need it.

Thanks to a generous donation recently, I can help 2-3 families with sound dampening currently. I plan on continuing to do this whenever I get donations to that account, so if the autistic person in your family is really highly in need of soundproofing due to auditory sensitivity, such as conflicting access needs/noisy home and can't move locations, and the autistic person very much needs soundproofing and you cannot afford it.

If your autistic kid needs a sound dampening space due to the reasons above and you need funds for this, consider filling out this Google form. (Note that I am in the U.S. but can likely ship to the UK and Canada if needed).