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For young kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), environments like school, day care, or even the home can be so noisy as to become confronting and painful. Unfortunately, the noises in these environments have even been associated with an uptick in anxiety and depression. Thankfully, a new generation of ear protection has been designed with kids in mind, providing the support children with ASD need to overcome sound sensitivity.
In this guide, we’re going to outline some popular options for children’s ear protection that have been successfully used by kids with ASD. These all function as a kind of passive assistive technology, working to suppress the most confronting noises by lowering their volumes, helping the child participate on the same terms as their peers.
Somewhat uniquely for this list, our first suggested product is NOT an ear plug. In fact, it doesn’t block any sound. Weird right? When it was introduced in 2020, the Flare Calmer was a surprising hit among sound sensitive individuals. It worked by ‘softening’ how those sounds entered the ear, making anxiety-provoking triggers suddenly disappear.
We were constantly asked if Flare would introduce a version for kids. Thankfully they have! The Flare Calmer Kids comes in three fun colours and is great for use at home, at school, or wherever sound and hearing triggers are present. The Calmer works by suppressing the ‘distortion’ in sound that triggers kids with ASD. By stopping these triggers, it helps hyper sensitive kids feel more calm and confident in environments they used to find stressful. Not only used by kids with ASD, the Calmer has been effectively used by kids experiencing misophonia, hyperacusis, or other sound intolerance.
Each set of the Calmer Kids comes with a mesh carry bag (great for not getting lost at school). They’re barely noticeable when worn, soft and durable, and made of a kid-safe, scentless, non-toxic silicone. The sizing is appropriate for kids aged 5-12 and can then be replaced by the ordinary adult’s Calmer down the track.
For some kids with ASD, suppressing loud sounds is a priority. It is not enough to merely target triggering frequencies, as in the Calmer. In this situation, you need a comfortable, kid safe ear plug that blocks out noise, without undermining their awareness or capacity to participate. The Alpine Pluggies are one of the most diverse plugs on the market: they’re great for swimming, for class, for music lessons, with filters that block up to 30dB of sound while still allowing your child to hear their teacher and participate with their friends.
The Pluggies were initially designed as a solution for improving concentration in the hectic classroom environment. In recent years, they have become particularly popular for kids with ASD due to the strength of their AlpineAcousticFilters. Essentially, the ear plugs block lots of sound, but the filters communicate that sound through the ear at a lower volume. As mentioned, these are rated to 30 SNR, blocking up to 30dB when properly fitted. For kids who struggle particularly with the noisy chaos of the classroom, the Pluggies will block out the disruption, improving your child’s ability to concentrate on the teacher. They’re a great chill out plug too, good for targeting specific triggers, wear during meltdowns, or any other situation where you just want to cut noise off.
The Pluggies are suitable for ages three to twelve. Like the Calmer, they’re made with a hypoallergenic material — no silicone in these — with comfortable thermo-shape material that’s great even for kids with touch sensitivity.
For babies, ear plugs aren’t recommended. This doesn’t change the reality of sound sensitivity, particularly for infants and toddlers with ASD. In this case, a comfortable set of baby earmuffs can be a huge quality of life improvement—for parent and child!—by making formerly stressful environments calmer and less confronting for the baby.
The Joey is a great, baby-safe option for kids aged three months to three years. Like the Pluggies, they suppress dangerous noises while still allowing the child to remain aware of their ambient surroundings. Rated to 22 SNR, when properly fitted they’ll block around 22dB of noise — great for bringing the baby along to the movies, the shopping centre or anywhere where they find noise confronting or anxiety inducing.
These muffs are made from hypoallergenic, baby safe materials, with no loose parts or sharp edges that can catch wandering hands or feet. An included carry bag makes this an easily packed accessory for babies with specific sound sensitivities, while the included stickers are a cute and unique way of expressing your individual style.
Not just for babies, ear muffs remain a really popular choice for children and teenagers with ASD of all ages. They generally suppress more sound than ear plugs, and are becoming a popular evidence based intervention for schools — you might have seen them in your classroom’s ‘chill out space’ or as a borrowable accessory during noisy recess and lunchtime.
The Muffy is strong ear protection for kids with ASD, suitable for ages 5 to 16 years of age. The smaller sized ear cups minimise pressure on the ear and head, great for kids with touch sensitivity, while still producing a strong sound blocking seal. These block up to 25dB when properly fitted, great for chilling out, blocking anxiety inducing sounds, or managing anxiety in the class or other environments. In comparison to ear plugs, ear muffs are generally more consistent with the amount of sound they block. There’s no issue with fit, they just cup over the ears and get to work blocking sound. They’re a lightweight pair and collapsible, making them both portable but also unlikely to cause pain or pressure on the skull. The soft lining is particularly popular for kids sensitive to touch, it feels smooth and comfortable on the skin, great for tactile self-regulation.
Not just for individual uses, the Muffy is also great in-class or at daycare, anywhere where teachers or carers might be trying to fit out the most lush chillout space. It can be worn to minimise distraction as a result of triggering sounds, or just as a way of de-stressing during the day. An easy to clean outer layer makes these muffs easily sanitised and maintained for multiple wearers, while a variety of different colours can be suitable for colour coordinating. Skin friendly material is hypoallergenic and unlikely to cause upset, while an included carry case protects the unit between wears and helps you keep it with you all the time.
For kids with ASD, noisy environments like the classroom can be anxiety inducing and uncomfortable. Proper ear protection can support them in participating on the same basis as their peers, allowing them to thrive by transforming their sonic environment into something less confronting. As mentioned, NDIS invoices are available for our entire range, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.