Sound Sensitivity in Children (Hyperacusis)

Patient Experience

  • Reference Number: HEY1417-2023
  • Departments: Audiology
  • Last Updated: 1 November 2023


This leaflet has been written to provide you with information about sound sensitivity, sometimes referred to as hyperacusis in children.  It includes why children can be sensitive to sounds and way in which you can support and help your child.

What is Hyperacusis?

This is a term to describe a high level of sensitivity to certain sounds.  Sound sensitivity is very common in children and usually improves as they get older.  Sounds such as hand driers, vacuum cleaners and sirens can cause distress.  Environments such as a party can also create a similar response.  Your child may attempt to avoid situations where these sounds are known to occur.  Not all sounds of the same loudness cause distress.  Hearing sensitivity can affect one or both ears, and it can come on suddenly or develop over time.

Who suffers from Hyperacusis?

Hyperacusis can affect people of all ages, including adults, but is most common in young children.  Children who suffer from glue ear may also experience sensitivity to sound.  This is because their hearing levels are only temporarily reduced, so when their hearing improves, normal everyday sounds can often seem much louder.

How do I know if my child is sensitive to sound?

When confronted with loud noises your child may:

  • Cry or become distressed.
  • Cover their ears their hands.
  • Develop a nervousness or dislike for particular activities or places where they may have experienced these sounds.
  • Try to avoid the sound, for example leaving the room.

How can I help my child manage their sound sensitivity?

  • First, and importantly, try to avoid giving your child earplugs or ear defenders. These can actually cause your child’s ears to become more sensitive, as they become used to a reduced level of sound.
  • Comfort your child and, if necessary, take them away from the sound.
  • Reassure in a clear, simple way about the non-threatening nature of the sound.
  • Gently expose your child to the distressing sound; gradually increasing loudness to the sound will help to reduce the sensitivity reaction. You could record the sound on your phone and play it back to your child, adjusting the volume over time.
  • Where possible, prepare your child before the loud sound begins.
  • Try to find ways to distract your child’s attention when in distressing, noisy situations.
  • Encourage your child to make the sounds they have control of, such as allowing them to turn the vacuum cleaner on, play with noisy toys or activate the hand drier.
  • Avoid silence. Play some gentle background sounds or music to your child when in quiet environments.  This helps to increase the background volume, making sudden loud sounds less of a shock.

Useful link

For helping your child to keep calm

Website: – Seven techniques for helping kids keep calm – CBeebies – BBC

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats your child, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to your child. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your child’s condition, the alternatives available for your child, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about your child

We collect and use your child’s information to provide your child with care and treatment. As part of your child’s care, information about your child will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your child’s information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide your child with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your child’s doctor, or the person caring for your child.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about your child. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you need information about your child’s (or a child you care for) health and wellbeing and their care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.