The world is too loud. Here's how I block it out.
I'm autistic, I know a thing or two about keeping your brain quiet in a world that's very loud.
This week, I was reading Tyla Grant’s Autism Autumn Essentials and couldn’t help but contemplate how many things I have tucked into my pockets, squirrelled away into my rucksack and never leave
my bedroom the house without just to keep my brain at peace.
One of the reasons my mental health is so much better than it was even a few years ago is the fact that for the first time I’m not exhausted from trying to deal with so much sensory input. I’m someone who finds noise, particularly challenging in terms of sensory input.
I’ll never forget the evening I spent running around my flat because I thought the electricity was sparking because I could hear this constant metallic crackling sound only to realise that I had left an open can of Diet Coke on the counter and I was hearing the bubbles rise and fizz from three rooms away.
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It’s not so much that loud sounds bother me, it’s usually the number of different types of sounds when I’m out and about, their unpredictability and how constant they are. And if you’re autistic like me, EVERYTHING MAKES NOISE ALL THE TIME. Most people have brains that filter out sound and prioritise what to listen to: mine drinks everything and then decides to sort. It’s exhausting, especially with lights and electronic devices everywhere. Different lightbulbs even have different sounds - sometimes it’s a lower thrum, often it’s a constant high-pitched whirring.
Either way, it’s exhausting. I’m usually okay at concerts because I plan for them, know they are coming up and understand that the expense of going is needing to decompress the next day. Even before diagnosis, I knew that days after events were write-offs.
Anyway, if for whatever reason you find the world is a bit too loud, here are my recommendations for when you need to drown out the world.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
I spend most of my life with my earphones in. These Bose QuietComfort earphones have been a blessing and a curse. They stay in, are comfortable and they keep external noise out like nothing else. In fact, using an app on my phone I can adjust the level of noise cancellation based on what I need or the environment I’m in. If I’ve not got my earplugs, then I’ll often use them to drown out noise even without music.
I will say that I’ve had issued with regards to getting them repaired when they break as you cannot simply buy another charger from any store as each case is synced with those headphones. But, if that’s not a problem for you, they’re currently on offer at John Lewis.
Vibes Noise-Cancelling Ear Plugs
I know that everyone and their aunt has been advertised one particular brand of earplugs designed to block out background noise. I haven’t used them yet, mostly because I’m wedded to my Vibes (no, not the sexy kind. Then again….). I’ve gone through maybe half a dozen pairs of these earplugs over the last few years not because they don’t last, but because I’m the queen of losing things. In all honesty, I repurchase them because when they’re in I can hold a conversation but I can’t hear any background noise at all. They’re honestly wonderful, stay in overnight and all day and no one can see them, so they’re perfect for classrooms, clubs or work.
Dark Noise is an app which contains 50 different types of ambient sounds which loop. I think it cost me a fiver a few years ago and frankly, there are days I use it more than any streaming platform. Dark Noise is a simple yet powerful way to play ambient noise to help you sleep, focus, or relax. I know there are lots of free playlists on YouTube of music which would do the job, but when I’m overwhelmed and need one thing to focus on, having an app which I know exactly what I’ll be getting at the tap of a button is just much better for me. For what it’s worth, Spaceship Engine is my favourite - I quite often fall asleep to it.
Pokemon Music (or any video game).
It wouldn’t be an article by an autistic person without at least one special interest mentioned. Pokemon may well be one of my favourite things in the world, but I recommend it here only because video game music is designed to get people to ‘zone in’ to the game and motivate players, all whilst not distracting from the aim of the game. If I need to drown out a noisy environment and get on with work, I will absolutely be listening to Pokemon music in the background (this is my favourite playlist). Or, if you want something even more chill, this Animal Crossing soundtrack is perfect.
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I’d love to hear any recommendations you’ve got in the comments below.