Hypersensitivity to sound is a common and debilitating problem in children and adults with Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NDD), particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Sound sensitivity significantly impacts the daily lives of children and their ability to learn and interact with others, sometimes so severely that they are completely unable to participate in educational and social settings. Existing solutions employed by families and schools, such as avoiding situations in which aversive sounds may occur, taking breaks away from noise, or using noise reduction devices such as ear muffs, ear plugs, or noise-canceling headphones, also impose major barriers to children’s social inclusion and learning opportunities. That is, these strategies either remove children with ASD from the classroom or school activity, or limit their participation by blocking out sounds indiscriminately. Existing technical solutions also fail to address the individualized nature of sound sensitivity.

In this project, funded by Kids Brain Health Network, and in partnership with Surrey School District, we are developing a personalized, intelligent device to selectively filter the undesired sounds specific to each individual. This project has focused initially on school-aged children with ASD (Kindergarten to Gr 12) because this is the population on which the vast majority of research has been conducted with respect to sound sensitivity; however, our solution will be scalable to children and adults with other NDDs (such as FASD, Williams Syndrome), in which sound sensitivity is an issue.

As part of this project, we are conducting a study in which we are examining adolescents’ ratings of and physiological responses to preferred and unpleasant sounds. Below is a screenshot from that study.

Our motivation for this project is to improve quality of life for families, and to provide better learning and social outcomes for children with ASD with sound sensitivity by increasing their participation in social, educational, and recreational settings.


Sample Publications

Hussein, S., Bahmei, B., Gustafson, K., Fisher, R., Iarocci, G., Arzanpour, S. & Birmingham, E. (2019). Family experiences of auditory hypersensitivity in ASD.Poster presented at the 2019 International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) meeting (May 1-4, 2019), Montreal, QC, Canada.

Bahmei, B., Birmingham, E., & Arzanpour, E. (in preparation).  Data augmentation using Deep Convolutional Generative Adversarial Network for environmental sound classification.

Bahmei, B, Yang, J, Arzanpour, S., Herdman, A., Iarocci, G., & Birmngham, E. (2019).  Exploring the nature of auditory hypersensitivity in Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Poster presented at the 2019 Kids Brain Health Network Conference (Dec 10-11, 2019), Ottawa, ON, Canada.