Why is My Child Scared of Loud Noise? 8 Tips to Help Your Children When They Are Scared of Loud Noise

Many children feel afraid when they hear loud noises – especially if they can’t tell what is causing them. It’s a natural reaction. Once the child understands what is causing the noise it ceases frighten them.  And there are so many loud noises that as adult we take for-granted and hardly notice. Listening to the world with a child’s ear can be revealing!

Our task as parents in to show our children how to interpret loud noises. When should they be afraid and when is the noise just part of the normal background? When should they take notice and when can they safely ignore it? It has taken us years of practice so your child may need a little help.

Some children are extremely sensitive to sounds. They may be autistic, they may have a phobia to sound or they may link the sound to a traumatic event in their lives. They might even be copying your own fears! We’ll look at these possible causes and then suggest ways you can help your child overcome their fear of loud noises.

Here are some of the reason your child is scared of loud noises:

Looking at yourself

Children model themselves on their parents. If you are afraid of something – then there is good chance your child will learn to fear it too. This is common in the fear of spiders, but may also include other fears including a fear of loud noises!

Past trauma

You, as the parent, might know of past trauma in your child’s life. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs in children as well as adults. You can gently explore this with your child and reassure him that it is in the past. If you think he is not getting over it you need to seek the help of professionals. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is very real and can be treated successfully by the experts. It is vital to address the problem in the appropriate manner.

Autistic Spectrum Disorder

Many children who have features of autism are distressed by loud noises. Indeed, the sounds might even be painful. These children will often cover their ears or try to hide under covers to reduce the sound. They may try to comfort themselves by rocking or shaking.

They notice sounds that as adults we have learned to tune out. The sound of rain falling on the trees when out for a walk, for example, can be just too much. Outside noises can intrude into the home or classroom, traffic or roadworks which most of us can ignore can be very intrusive for children who are hyper-sensitive to sounds.

Does your child have a phobia to loud noises?

A phobia to loud noises has the name “phonophobia.  This is an intense and irrational fear of loud noises. It is not logical, the children often recognize it in themselves, and it is not amenable to explanation, teasing or attempts to humiliate the child. Sirens, fireworks, alarm bells can be terrifying for people with phonophobia.

There might be a cause you can relate to – one terrifying event such as a bomb explosion or a car backfiring. It might be a result of longer term trauma, teasing or abuse. In a sensitive child, quite normal sounds might seem overwhelming. Shouting “Boo” can really upset them.

However, like most phobias there are treatments including neuro-linguistic programming which can be very successful and quick. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proved to be effective as has exposure therapy, although, they can take a few months to show results. While the following methods can ease a child’s fears who is scared, you might need professional help when the problem is severe or associated with PTSD, autism or a true phobia.

Other conditions you might meet

“Hyperacusis” means that sounds sound louder to these people. Sometimes sensory acuity can be increased after certain types of brain injury, after recovery from Lyme disease (caused by ticks) as well as PTSD.

“Misophonia”. This is where the emotional response to noise is extreme. Even soft noises can disturb people with misophonia.

Although these conditions are unusual in children they can occur and can be very distressing for your child who will try to avoid noise, cover his ears or try to run away for the sound. Genetic factors may play a role in hypersensitivity to sound.

Migraine – this tends to be under diagnosed in children – but is not uncommon and loud noises are very distressing. Often these children will complain of a headache and also be very distressed by bright light, they tend to want to retreat into bed with the covers pulled over their heads. Migraine can be very unpleasant and if your think your child might be suffering from this condition, it is worth a visit to the doctor since there are effective treatments available.

But there are many things you can do to help your scared child, and we offer a few tips which will help:

Tips to help your child who is scared of loud noises

1. Talking about it.

Your child may have difficulty putting their fear into words. They may not have the vocabulary needed, or they may feel ashamed. Ask them about it using simple questions, and be patient with their answers; to the child this is a matter of importance. When they trust you, they are more likely to tell you about it, but they may be reluctant, and you will need to call on your reserves of patience. Showing them you understand their fear, and do not blame them and that you will support them, always, is the first step.

2. The use of materials

Fairy stories have been with us for hundreds of years. They can be an excellent way for your child to begin to understand her fears. More recently we have the movies and videos which, carefully chosen, can resonate with a child and help them to become accustomed to loud sounds. When you read a story to your kids, you can add in some noises – and often your kids will find this funny! Let them make the noise with you – see who can growl the loudest, shout the longest or squeak the highest. Books can be a great source of inspiration for parents to have fun with their child, making loud noises as they do so.

As well as making noises, reading or telling stories helps your children to realize that there are solutions to problems, even scary ones.

3. Explanations can help

Loud sounds are confusing. Sometimes they are a warning – like the siren of an ambulance or police vehicle, and sometimes they are just annoying. You can play games with your child – a toy ambulance racing to help his teddy bear – blares out a signal to move over, and the clatter of cutlery might mean dinner is on the table. You need to show your kid why we need some loud sounds and how to respond to them.

Rather than huddling you frightened child close, tell him what made the noise, be calm and explain patiently. Soon your child will ask you what “that noise” is and if you show you are unimpressed he will copy you – although he might need our reassurance until he is sure of the cause himself.

4. Helpful headphones

If your child is afraid of noises in the street or in the country when you go for a walk, try letting him put on headphones with music. As he gets more relaxed about sounds you can gradually decrease the volume until he no longer needs them.

5. A plan of action

And if they get scared they need a plan of action. This might be to tell you, to put their hands over their ears or sing a special song. Distraction can be very reassuring. It’s a good idea to have something up your sleeve to bring out quickly when needed. If your child also has something he can fall back on without too much thinking at the time it not only comforts him but also lets him know he does have some control over his emotions.

6. Link the sound to something good

A gong or bell pealing out might mean food is on its way. The ice cream man’s van announces itself with a bit of a hullabaloo. Road works can mean there is a hole in the pavement and your kid can peer in and see what is underneath. Children are curious and love to share information.

The shriek of the police car can be very scary when it is unexpected and strange to the child. Telling them about the superheroes inside, rushing to the rescue, forcing other cars to pull aside so they can catch the baddies makes it exciting. Kids understand that and it makes good story.

7. Teach your child how to relax when stressed

There are easy relaxation techniques you can teach your child. Let him practice them when things are quiet so he can use them when he is scared for any reason.

The simplest ones are best.

Square Breathing. Even taking a slow deep breath is relaxing. Show him how to breathe in while counting to 4, holding his breath for a count of 4 and then exhaling though the mouth for another count of 4, and then holding it for a count of 4. This “square breathing” is easy to use at any time and a few “square breathes” gives you time to assess the situation and realize that it’s only a loud noise and nothing to be afraid of.

  • In through our mouth, count to 4
  • Hold for a count of 4
  • Breathe out for a count of 4 through your mouth
  • Hold for a count of 4

Shrug your shoulders. You might find a muscle relaxation works better for your child. Tensing the hand and then deliberately relaxing it – and doing the same for other muscle groups works well, but the best one of all is probably to raise your shoulders and the drop them. We carry tension in our shoulders and this is a good way to release it. Why not try it yourself now?

8. What not to do!

Don’t use force, don’t make them face their fears head on. Never punish or humiliate them for their fears. They have to learn to live in a strange noisy world, but it may take time. A calm and gentle approach works so much better – and it feels nicer for you as well! Patience is a virtue much praised – for good reason!

Conclusion

A loud noise can be alarming for anyone if we do not understand the reason. So it’s not surprising that many children react in a startled manner and can get upset. It’s perfectly natural. Most youngsters grow out of it as they understand more and more about our world.

However some children are Hypersensitive to sound and this is not uncommon. This can be quite scary. There are various reasons which include Autism. PTSD, phobias and migraine. None of us like unexpected loud noises – but for a child who is hypersensitive they can be overwhelming.

There may be times when you need to consult a medical specialist, if this is interfering with our child’s life. Treatments are available and they usually work. However there are many things you yourself can do – and who better to help your child than the parent?

Patience and kindness are the keys to successfully encouraging your child to understand and accept that life is full of surprises and these include loud sounds.

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