An an autistic adult why the gift of ear muffs made me sob

headphones

I immediately felt a total sense of security as the muffs cupped my ears and hugged my head.

By Angie Arcuri

This morning after we had woken up and were having our coffee, my wife received a couple packages in the mail. We new it must have been some things that she had ordered for me for Christmas. Since I had let her open a couple presents early, she did the same for me. I brought the packages up on the table. I opened the bigger box first.

My wife looked as I was opening the box and said, “this one is the boring one, but I think you might still like it.”

I opened up the box and in it was a brochure for kids toys, which I thought was strange. Lying on top was a nice pair of hearing reduction, ANSI S3.19 ear muffs. I knew that this is one of the things I might get for Christmas. I helped my wife pick them out on Amazon. I really liked the color, a nice shiny light blue. I have always wondered if these earmuffs might help me since I have some sensitivity to noise. I thought they would be a nice little aid to help whenever I wanted a bit of peace and quiet. No big deal. What happened next as I put the earmuffs on, however, was completely unexpected.

So many realizations came rushing at me when I wore those earmuffs for the first time.

I immediately felt a total sense of security as the muffs cupped my ears and hugged my head. As I looked around the room, all I could focus on was the sound. I was protected. The moment that really threw me off guard was when my eyes began to well up with tears. The tears gradually began to flow down my cheeks as I began to realize just how much all the sounds I have been hearing my whole life, have really affected me. The bombarding, pummeling and relentless noise continuously attacking my brain cells in complete, hellish torture was my norm. It was as if I was immune to it. Listening to the sound of my surroundings through the filter of the headphones was so serene and so comforting. I felt at ease, like the anxiety that I always knew would exist within me just melted away, just like that.

For the first time in my life, I could actually hear!

As I sat there looking around, my face in astonishment, taking in the new sound of my environment, I began to sob uncontrollably.

Is this how neurotypical people hear?

I could hear much better than I did without the ear muffs. I was no longer distracted by all the excess noises that try to bombard my ears with the same level of intensity as those that I was trying to focus on in any given moment. It was as if the ear muffs were focusing the noise to where it should go in my ears. My wife could speak to me and I could actually focus on what she was saying. I could participate in conversation and not get distracted by other things happening in my environment. For the first time, I realized why I would get stressed from 0 to 100 in any given moment. I hear too much, and my brain doesn’t know how to process or filter out noises.

It has always extremely bothered me when people talk to much or too loud. Being in a crowded place, such as the mall or a school cafeteria, has always been a hellish nightmare. I have never been proud of the fact that sound of people laughing of all things, makes my skin crawl. I often come home thoroughly exhausted from being in public places and just melt down. Driving or walking in or near traffic also puts me in a state of high stress and anxiety. After 36 years of experiencing my world as I know it, I finally know why. More than half the reason for my stress and anxiety is because of sound, my hearing and my sensory processing.

It seems silly that I cried. It may be unfathomable for some.

They are just ear muffs, and they are specifically designed for hearing protection and noise reduction. So why do I feel so special? Because being able to hear properly with these ear muffs, is going to change my life for the better. I finally have a support that I have never had before, nor that I knew I absolutely needed. I can experience the world in a much more ordered and comfortable way. I have never been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. It has never even crossed a health professionals mind that I could have it. All I know is that the headphones I got for Christmas this year, is the least boring gift I could have gotten!

When I was finally done blubbering at least an hour or more after donning the ear muffs, my wife said to me, “Are you going to wear those if we go out on a date?”

To which I replied, “Absolutely!”

***

My name is Angie Arcuri. I am a female who is autistic. I graduated from college in 2016 when I was 34 years old. I studied communications and media studies. I co-host a vlog series. I also have a blog at theneurodivergentwriter.net. I am an aspiring filmmaker and am currently beginning work on a documentary about neurodiversity. Neurodiversity and autism rights, as well as acceptance is something that I am very passionate about. Awareness of women on the spectrum is a large part of my focus as well. This is a collaborative film project and I am always open to new people coming on board.

2 Comments

  • I recently discovered the same amazing feeling!!! I finally feel like I can focus on my thoughts and on what people are saying! without the earplugs, it feels like my thoughts are jets flying past and I have to work really hard to keep them on track.

    now, with the earplugs in, I feel like I can finally keep track of things I’m thinking and things others are saying. you said it in the exact way I feel it! I am so glad I found this article, it really validated this new amazing feeling I have :-D. plus, I’ll probably share this article with my friends and it will probably help me explain how great i feel!! Thank you!!

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