Date Presented 04/21/2023

This study examined auditory hypersensitivities in autistic and nonautistic children using parent-report and performance measures. Significant differences were identified on the parent report but not on observational measures.

Primary Author and Speaker: Sabrina Kabakov

Additional Authors and Speakers: Brittany Travers, Karla Ausderau

PURPOSE: Autistic children can be impacted by environmental sounds making participation in daily activities challenging. There is a need to better understand differences in auditory responses, their impact on occupational performance, and effective means to assess those differences in autistic individuals.

DESIGN: Auditory data was collected as part of a larger observational study evaluating brainstem structure and corresponding behaviors in autistic (n = 31) and non-autistic children (n = 41) ages 6-10 years.

METHOD: This study focused on 13 Likert scale auditory response questions and 8 open-ended questions that are part of the Sensory Experience Questionnaire Version 3.0 (SEQ 3.0). Child auditory hypersensitivity responses to 4 sounds that were administered as part of the Evaluation in Sensory Integration (EASI), a performance measure were also included. A two-sample t-test (p > .05) was used.

RESULTS: Differences between groups were found for the caregiver-report auditory response on the SEQ 3.0 (p < .001) with the autistic children having higher sensory responses. In addition, more parents of autistic children (autistic = 23, non-autistic = 7, p < .001) reported their child had auditory hypersensitivities in an open-ended question. Parents of non-autistic children tended to report their child outgrew the auditory hypersensitivity. No difference (p = .06) between groups was identified in response to the auditory stimuli on the EASI.

CONCLUSION: The study found a difference between auditory hypersensitivities using caregiver-report, but not the performance measure. This may be due to the controlled environment that the performance testing occurred, including preparing the child for the short duration stimulus. The use of the narrative responses provided greater insight into the child’s responses over time and their impact on daily activities. Understanding autistic children’s heterogeneous responses to auditory stimuli using different assessment measures may support improved assessment and targeted therapies for autistic individuals.


Landon, J., Shepherd, D., & Lodhia, V. (2016). A qualitative study of noise sensitivity in adults with an autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 32, 43–52.

Williams, Z. J., He, J. L., Cascio, C. J., & Woynaroski, T. G. (2021). A review of decreased sound tolerance in autism: Definitions, phenomenology, and potential mechanisms. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 121, 1–17.