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  • Eli Stuart (they/them)

Noise Cancelling Headphones

(Image Description: Cover Image is of over-the-ear noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders that are black. These are not connected to any device and aren't Bluetooth, purely block sound, so the part that goes on the ear is big and rounded, with a soft, squishy material on the part directly on the ears. )

What are Noise Cancelling Headphones?

Noise-cancelling headphones are “ear defenders” that go over your head with the purpose of cancelling noise, or reducing noise at least.

Why do neurodivergent people use them?

Many neurodivergent people deal with sensory issues. This is most seen in Autistic people, but also occurs to those with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHDers. Settings with a lot of stimuli can be overwhelming, leading to sensory overload. Sensory overload occurs when there are too many stimuli (lots of noise or smells) or too intense stimuli (lighting, a specific texture). This causes the person to shut down, which can be seen in being unable to speak or concentrate and feeling trapped. Sensory overloads are draining and take time to recover from. Noise-cancelling headphones can work as a preventive in a way, blocking out unnecessary noise that added with a bunch of other stimuli can lead to a sensory overload.

What is it like to wear them?

Wearing headphones doesn't eliminate all noise, mostly it muffles sounds, though it does seem to eliminate very small sounds. When wearing them during a fire drill, for example, I still hear the alarm blaring, but it isn’t as loud or direct. I hear others talking as more mummering, where you can’t really make out what they are saying unless they are next to you and directly speaking to you. If I take them off, I can hear some smaller sounds that were eliminated like people stepping on the grass or the wind. In a room with a loud AC, wearing them blocked that noise, but I could still hear when the class near me made loud noises.

I will say in very quiet areas already, I may feel the need to take them off to get some stimulus. It is also true that in quiet areas (or sometimes non-quiet areas) I am more aware of the sound I make, which can be difficult. I also try not to talk a lot with them on since I have a tendency to be loud already, having the headphones will make me speak even louder.

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