Dear Dr. Sylvia

Sensitivity to Loud Noises

January, 2017



My child is sensitive to the school bell loudness and wears headphones. I’m afraid he will be made fun of. Will he eventually become desensitized?





Some children are highly sensitive to loud sounds, and headphones can surely give them more comfort. Ear plugs, which are less obvious to other children, might help your son with the sound. They are less noticeable and not quite as strange to peers. If your son has plenty of friends and seems socially comfortable, I don’t think you should make any changes; but if he’s struggling with friendships, you might consider the less obvious alternative.

Your son is likely to outgrow the problem somewhat, but he may always be more sensitive to sounds than most people. When you consider how noisy many environments are in our culture today, you can assume he’ll either outgrow his problem or will wish to stay out of many public places.
There’s a lot of variability with children, so you would probably accomplish most by assuring your son that his sensitivity probably will gradually disappear. If you give it as little attention as possible without being inconsiderate of his real discomfort, he’ll learn to cope better with his problem.

Dr Sylvia RimmDr. Sylvia Rimm is a child psychologist and clinical professor at Case University School of Medicine, author, newspaper and magazine columnist, and radio/TV personality. For free newsletters entitled How to Parent So Children Will Learn, and/or Fears and Fearful Children, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for each newsletter and a note with your topic request to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094. Read Dr. Rimm’s articles on this topic and submit family questions online at All questions are answered.

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