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With no cure for hyperacusis in sight can children be the key

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On February 14, 2014, a young woman shares a remarkable story with us that give’s hope to the battle against hyperacusis. It was a day like any other; she arrived at the daycare where her four-year-old son goes to school to pick him up. As she arrived, the dog there started barking (he usually does not bark) she had to cover her ears and remarked, “Oh Benji stop!”

We bring you this story because this young woman suffers from hyperacusis. Hyperacusis is a non-visible disability which is a sensitivity to every day sounds. On this particular day, the daycare provider wanted to discuss an incident that occurred; her son had a crying episode.

The young woman explained, “We tried to talk to him about it, when my son put his hands over his ears and was all "stop, stop!" The daycare provider thought he was ignoring her and being rude. The mother admitted this might be possible.

The daycare provider went on to tell the young woman’s son, he was being rude by covering his ears and he needed to apologize, which he did. However, the young woman felt her son was copying her behavior, which, the mother explained she does cover her ears when a loud noise catches her off-guard. For hyperacusis sufferers every day sounds can be discomforting, painful even debilitating.

Do you believe the daycare provider was right in telling the child he was being rude by cover his ears and needed to apologize? On the other hand, do you believe a child should show their emotions? This child covered his ears and said, “stop, stop!” he was not hurting himself or anyone else?

The concern here is that the daycare provided was telling the child that all too familiar word “No”

The mother, also shared with us her expressed concern about something the caregiver said, “One thing that bothers me is that she kept saying he needs to “toughen up”” Such a statement as, “toughen up” does not show concern for why the child was acting in such away.

Could this mother be right in saying, she believed her child was indeed mimicking her own behavior; this mother may be teaching a very important lesson, which might be the key in battling this non-visible disability.

“I think that he is learning from me how to determine sounds that are too loud. We were in a foyer, and the dog's high-pitched barks were kind of a reverberation effect, the daycare provider was peaking to us from the second floor, a full-flight above us, talking down, her voice was kind of loud, so maybe her voice itself was bothering him too.”

This may be the first sign that a child so young is learning about the dangers of sounds on the level of a hyperacusis sufferer, who is not known to be diagnosed himself. It is a proven fact children learn by example. This child may have recognize what the caregiver was doing as being harmful and covered his ears to protect them.

Whether or not this child has, hyperacusis is not known at this point. The young mother says her child has not had a hearing test.

“I think it is definitely worth examining. I am going to try and pay close attention now, and see what I can observe. He creates so many loud noises and some of his toys have like, sirens and obnoxious beeping and stuff- he is not bothered by those things. However, when music or TV is too loud he asks for it to be turned down. I think he is learning which sounds can be harmful, and also, some sounds are simply distracting, he does seem to have some sensory issues, where he needs background noise to be quiet so he can focus on what he's doing."

If children can learn at a young age just how dangerous the different sound levels are we may be able to protect generations to come from this non-visible disability. However that would mean stricter guidelines would need to be put in place from OSHA in the workplace.

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