From balloons popping to vacuum cleaners, seemingly normal sounds can cause anxiety in many young children. While a fear of loud noises is often normal for an infant or toddler, some specialists indicate that if such a fear survives past toddlerhood, it might require treatment. Understanding the root of your little one's fears and talking to her about them may help ease her anxiety.
Reasons for Fearing Loud Noises
The reason behind a child’s fear of loud noises varies by individual. Pediatric audiologist Kristin Knight told Amy Wang, a blogger for "The Oregonian," that such a fear is generally biologic or physiologic. A child may not have the same tolerance level for loud sounds as her peers or she may hear the sounds differently. A child may not like a certain characteristic about a sound instead of its volume. Her noise-related anxiety may be a protective response to loud sounds, even if there is no real threat, psychologist Adele M. Brodkin writes on the website Scholastic.
Noticing Offending Sounds
When your child feels stressed about a loud noise, pay attention to the type of noise, its pitch and where it occurred. You may notice, for example, that it’s not just the vacuum that makes your child flee -- all white noise may upset him. On the other hand, loud noises may only affect your child when he’s away from home. Identifying the offending sounds can help you talk to your child about his fears, which can help him feel more safe.
When the fear of loud sounds is linked to a child’s protective responses, she may simply not like the way she feels when startled. Telling a child to expect a loud noise can help her stay calm during an event that would otherwise increase her stress levels. Brodkin says that when a child is young, she may not understand that a loud noise isn't linked to a threat. Telling her to expect a loud noise -- like the roar of a vacuum -- and being with her when the noise occurs may help her feel more comfortable. If warnings don’t seem to help, developmental pediatrician Dr. Sara Cuthill told Wang, try to avoid noises that trigger stress and anxiety.
Seeking Professional Help
While Cuthill recommends a professional evaluation of your child by a pediatrician if you find yourself being forced to avoid typical activities, Knight suggested turning to an otolaryngologist and an audiologist. Although otherwise typically developing children may be sensitive to loud noise, it is also associated with children who have autism. Because of that link, Cuthill explained, an assessment by a developmental pediatrician also may be helpful.
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