My Son Covers His Ears When Its Really Loud or He Gets Scared

Updated on November 07, 2012
J.R. asks from Troy, MI
20 answers

He has had his hearing checked and has passed so I dont think its that..He covers his ears when we go into the theatre or if he is watching something and he is afraid its going to be scary (which I do not allowed him nor anyone in my home to watch things that would scare my children..I HATE that kind of stuff) Im not sure whats going on..he also gets very anxious about when we were out to dinner the other night a man at a table across the way had fajita's and there was steam coming off the plate and you could hear it. well he FREAKED! then his dad (my DH) had ordered the same thing and he started crying when it came to the table freaking out!! he calmed down but it took him a little bit...I dont know what to make of this..he seems to do well in all other areas but these.. I know that you all are not doctors so I dont plan to hear a true diagnosis just maybe a few words of wisdom..thanks My son is 4.5 yrs old.. Just to clarify I DONT think anything is wrong but my sister wonders so its got me wondering...thanks!

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So What Happened?

Well we found out that this is just something kids go through at this age ..He doesnt freak out with all loud noises just some..He will be tested in a couple of months if things dont improve..Thanks for all the info and advice.

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answers from Detroit on

Maybe he is just oversensitive to certain sounds. My daughter (she is 3) started covering her ears with loud noises around 2. In a movie theater she will actually wear earmuffs to muffle the loud noise so she can watch it. She will also cover her ears at fireworks. I don't think anything is wrong with her, just very sensitive to loud noises around her.

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answers from Detroit on

I used to freak out when I heard a chain saw.....anywhere in the neighborhood....I would start screaming and covering my ears. I have no idea why I did that. I can deal with it better now but still absolutely hate the sound of a saw (makes DIY woodworking projects a pain). I am also sensitive to very bright lights as well - causes pain.
My 7yo son is sensitive to sounds as well......I think some people are just more sensitive to that than others. No worries as long as it doesn't interfere with daily life.

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answers from Eugene on

He might have some sensory issues. He obviously can hear really well. I would watch him and see when he covers his ears and whent he stops. Write it down. Write everything down that seems just a bit different, then ask his dr. I am always having to "decode" behavior because my daughter has autism and she has sensory issues too. She covers her ears for the vacumn, running water, places that are noisy. She has super sonic hearing and maybe your son could have super hearing too! We recently bought my daughter headphones( they are specifically for special needs kids, so they really help to block out noise) and they are sooooooo helpful to her. She can not handle her little brother crying or babies in general.. That is hard. Just guessing on why he might have started crying about the fajitas, it might have been that he could see the steam from them and knew they were SUPER HOT. And things that are super hot causes you to get hurt, or maybe it very well could be that he is that sensitive to the sound.. If you get the chance to see the movie, TEMPLE GRANDIN, watch it. It was on HBO. It is a true story about Temple, who has autism, and the viewer is watching it from the inside perspective of what she feels and hears and see. It is really good. Please know that I am not saying I think your son has a disorder or anything, but there is something called sensory processing disorder, which affects sensory issues!!

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answers from Cincinnati on

he might have auditory defensiveness. how old is he? Other questions to consider …

_ distracted by sounds not normally noticed by others; i.e., humming of lights or refrigerators, fans, heaters, or clocks ticking
__ fearful of the sound of a flushing toilet (especially in public bathrooms), vacuum, hairdryer, squeaky shoes, or a dog barking
__ started with or distracted by loud or unexpected sounds
__ bothered/distracted by background environmental sounds; i.e., lawn mowing or outside construction
__ frequently asks people to be quiet; i.e., stop making noise, talking, or singing
__ runs away, cries, and/or covers ears with loud or unexpected sounds
__ may refuse to go to movie theaters, parades, skating rinks, musical concerts etc.
__ may decide whether they like certain people by the sound of their voice

If you think he does have auditory defensiveness and you feel that it is interfering with his ability to function you may want to consider an evaluation by a pediatric occupational therapist

Good Luck!

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answers from Chicago on

You can't know why people get scared of certain things. Some people are just a little bit more sensitive than others, and some have an acute sense of hearing, or smell, or touch or taste.

Some of these things kids will outgrow. Just life experience demonstrates that these things are not scary. I'm sure you can think back to things you used to be scared of that you aren't anymore.

Also, I can think of lots of adults that are scared of things that they don't know, aren't expecting or don't understand. For a child, the world is full of things that they don't understand or aren't expecting. I would imagine the best thing to do is explain about whatever it is when your son's not freaking out and let him experience it in a safe manner.

A parent's personality can also influence the way a child reacts. I'm not saying YOU do this, but I've seen plenty of moms or dads freak out at every little thing "Junior, don't touch that! Don't go there! Don't XYZ!" and that may lead to a child that is more frightened of new things.

If you truly think that there is something wrong (you don't say how old your son is) then I would seek the opinion of a doctor.

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answers from Kansas City on

my son is very timid about some things...i think we just have sensitive boys. my son actually leaves the room routinely, during shows like backyardigans and micky mouse clubhouse, if the background music turns the least little bit ominous. if he can't run, he covers his ears and hides his face. in public restrooms he won't let me flush until he leaves (we have SOOO much trouble with the automatic flushing ones!) because they are SO loud. he just really hates loud noises. i am a bit the same way, so i understand. i really really HATE the sound of bass thumping. whether it's in a punk's car driving on the street, or the neighbor's stereo next door...i can't explain it, i just really HATE it. it just fills me with discomfort and unease. my son is 3 1/2.

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answers from Los Angeles on

It definitely sounds like your son has sensory issues. You may want to talk to the pediatrician to see if he should get some occupational therapy. Does he freak out a lot about sound issues? My daughter has high-functioning autism/Asperger's, and she does have some sensory issues with loud noises, but hers is pretty mild. She had other behavior issue that pointed to Asperger's! If you son is fine socially and in other ways, but is just hyper-sensitive to sound, he might just need some OT to help him out!

Also, just and FYI, many theaters now have screenings for children monthly that are more sensory-friendly. They don't make the theater as dark, and the volume isn't turned up as high! Check it out in your area! Quite frankly, I think the sound volume in a typical theater screening is insanely loud!

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answers from Grand Rapids on

Kids (and adults) can be hypersensitive to sounds, touch, whatever. He may just need a program of desensitization...which may take a few visits to a psychologist to help do but is usually covered by insurance and is well worth your child's comfort and happiness!

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answers from Killeen on

My son does this too. He is now 6.5 and has it a little more under control, probably becasue he is older and has experienced more things so he is not as nervous. Mine is very nervous about new things. His teacher will always pull him aside and let him know they are going to have a fire drill becasue the first time he was very upset by the unexpected loud noise.

Mine is just extra sensitive. We take time before actives just to let him know briefly of what to expect so he doesn't have to be anxious about it. Mine son has gotten a lot better in the past 2 years, so I'm sure yours will too as he gets older. (at 4.5 I can see my son getting upset about the fajitas too).
I don't think anything is wrong with my son either, but I have also had family members give me the eye roll when mine covers his ears....

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answers from Honolulu on

My daughter did/does that. She is just real sensitive to noises.
That is her.
We learned that about her.
She is just more sensitive to certain stimuli.
Nothing is "wrong" with her... but I have sensitive ears too.

Also at certain ages, they have certain 'fears." Age based. Developmental based. Normal.

My daughter, hates even going to the movie theater, because it is too loud. It tweaks her.

Your son covering his ears is a way to express, his fear and that something is scary or too loud. That is 'smart' of him. It does get the point across and that is how he feels and he is acting it out. Good for him.

all the best,

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answers from Portland on

I've had extremely sensitive hearing all my life, and although I didn't cover my ears routinely, I started doing that at an early age, and still do, when the sound reaches a certain pitch, because it simply hurts. Or when the sound is grating or abrasive, because my teeth and bones literally hurt. Bright light gets me, too. And fabric textures; certain kinds of touch.

So in my 60's, I finally hear this described as Sensory Processing Disorder. How cool is that – my discomfort has a name! But it's not just a burden. It's kind of a gift, too, because there are lots of wonderful sounds and sensations that I seem to notice more easily and enjoy more than other people.

You might get your son some ear plugs that he can carry and use in loud environments. They can be as cheap and simple as those little compressible foam "corks." There are also types that can hang over the shoulders on a cord for easy access.

I have a friend whose autistic son is easily panicked by loud sounds, and he can be undone by something as simple as group singing. She got him a set of headphone-style ear protectors, which he thinks is very cool. He can now stay in a room comfortably while other people are having fun making their noises.

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answers from San Diego on

He sounds sensitive. My daughter does the same thing. She is more of an introvert, we are a fairly quiet family, but she has been sensitive to noise from birth. We give her a lot of explanation as to what it is, why it might be loud. When something is loud I will comfort, explain, let her not like it, but explain why others might... I just heard a talk on NPR about noise pollution and how stress is related to our world becoming increasingly louder. Maybe your son is just wise: )


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answers from Columbus on

Hi J.,

You didn't mention how old your son is.

My son is 18 months and I can picture him either being completely intrigued by the sizzling fajitas or scared to death of them. He surprises me by what he likes and what he's scared of. He's not scared of the dark, or if I jump out from around a corner and yell "boo!" he laughs. But stick him in the the shopping cart or turn on the blender and he cries!

I don't think you have anything to be worried about, it all sounds normal to me.

PS I want to cover my ears when I go to the movies as well, it is WAY too loud in there for my comfort.

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answers from Detroit on

I have heard that some people have sensory issues where one of your senses ( hearing) is on overdrive and everything is louder to them. Someone I know, didn't find this out until she took her son to Disney where he freaked out. I would talk to your Ped. about it, they can recommend something/someone.



answers from Detroit on

Double check and get a doctors opinion. Sometimes overly sensitive kids have an underlying problem. My best friends child was diagnosed w/ aspergers and had the same reactions like that. Things that would not normally terrify another child.... Better to be safe than sorry and know earlier.



answers from Detroit on

hi J... im ana. my son is also covering his ears and murmurs when he doesnt want to hear the sound or if he is afraid... he started doing this routine between 3 to 4 years old... we went to a doctor and he was diagnosed as slight autism and global delay... he is still having his therapy session and thank God he has great improvements... i suggest to consult your issue to your doctor... as you have describe, used to do those same things before... but i hope everything will turn out fine... take care..



answers from Saginaw on

My son has SPD, like some of the other parents talked about. The fire drill story reminded me of this. Last week my husband was looking for the cordless phone and pushed the button on the base that makes the phone beep so you can find it. Our son was going to the bathroom and all of a sudden we heard this big bang and he was crying. It turned out the beeping of the phone sounded like the smoke detector to him, and startled him so much he fell down. : ) Poor little guy!

Usually his sensitive hearing causes him to cover his ears, though. Earphones really help and he isn't shy about wearing them. My dad has made comments a couple times - just a different generation, they don't understand (think everyone should "tough it out"). But other than that, it works for us.

The other funny thing my son does, is he likes to smell EVERYTHING. He seems to crave smells. Hates most noise and movement, but we went on a boat ride this weekend and the low drone of the boat motors totally calmed him.

Just keep an eye on your child to know what he likes and dislikes, and you will be able to help make things easier for him. My son does get sensory integration therapy from an occupational therapist, but you can do some of the same just by exposing him to the things that he's uncomfortable with, in a fun way in a controlled environment. With my son, even things he doesn't seem to enjoy at the time, later produce big results AND he talks about them like they were the best thing ever. Last year we rode a ferris wheel and K was only 3, cried and whined and wanted to go home. The next day he rode a noisy battery-operated tractor that he had been afraid of all summer, and for months pointed out where the ferris wheel had been and wanted to know when it was coming back. Just an example also of how stimulating a different sense can "overwhelm" their brain enough that the sensitive one (hearing) simply can't be as sensitive as it usually is.

Hang in there! Having a unique child is kind of fun sometimes.



answers from Detroit on

My youngest daughter had extremely sensitive hearing...not as sensitive as hearing the steam. We got her some earplugs to wear to loud movies, we had season tickets for the Lions then so she wore them to games...anything that would be really loud. We had had a similar reactions...tears that it was too loud at the stadium. Eventully she did grow out of the fear of the noise and the sensitivity.



answers from Detroit on

My nephew is diagnosed as Aspergers and suffered with sensory issues related to loud noises. It sounds like this is the only symptom your son is suffering from so it sounds like it's likely isolated. I know with my nephew, my SIL was able to get some therapy for him and he no longer suffers from sensory issues (he's now almost 8 - the sensory things were worst around ages 2-5). So there are definitely things you can do for him and they can help him to the point where loud noises, etc will no longer bother him. My nephew was so bad to the point where he didn't like when people sang happy birthday because he knew that they would clap and cheer at the end of the song which scared him. But now it doesn't even phase him. The reason I brought up the Aspergers is that I wanted to show that my nephew had multiple issues going on and they were still able to "cure" him of this sensory issue (I wasn't trying to infer that your son has Aspergers).



answers from Norfolk on

Hmmm, that kind of sounds like my 4yr old. He covers his ears a lot - when he's nervous or from loud noises. He also has a few other quirks that make me think he might have SPD issues (sensory processing). You can check out these websites to see if it sounds like your child...(apparently sensory integration may not be familiar to all doctors).


....though it may be something else, or even just a phase or quirk, but trust your instincts if you think it is not normal.

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