Researchers in the Vanderbilt University Medical Center department of hearing and speech sciences are running a study to better understand why some autistic people are more sensitive to everyday sounds than others and how this relates to the way the brain processes sound.
What are the goals of the study?
Although they are not frequently diagnosed, sound sensitivity disorders, including hyperacusis, misophonia, and phonophobia, are extremely common in the autistic population. The purpose of the current research study is to compare and contrast people with and without these different sound sensitivity syndromes in terms of their clinical symptoms, hearing, brain function, and mental health. By examining a group of adults with ALL levels and types of sound sensitivity (including no sound sensitivity at all), we hope to answer fundamental questions about the nature of sound sensitivity and improve the ways in which clinicians diagnose and assess patients with this common complaint.
What will happen during the visit or online?
Study participants will be asked to complete some online questionnaires and come to Vanderbilt for up to two in-person sessions. The first in-person session includes psychoacoustic (hearing) tests, interviews, and standardized psychological assessments. After that session, you may qualify for a second session that will include more hearing tests, brainwave recordings (EEG), and other measures of auditory function. There are no anticipated risks to you, and you may not benefit directly from your participation in this study, though you will have the opportunity to request a report of your study results. Following a screening questionnaire (approximately 10–15 minutes), there are two visits to the laboratory (each lasting approximately 3-5 hours) and two groups of online questionnaires (approximately 20–40 minutes each).
How will this help families?
Currently, research on autism and sound sensitivity has been limited to primarily descriptive studies of prevalence, and there is very little understanding of underlying mechanisms, let alone any evidence-based diagnostic or treatment strategies. This work will be foundational in advancing our knowledge of this problem and its underlying causes in the autistic population, which can hopefully lead the way toward better clinical care for autistic people who experience sound sensitivity in their everyday lives.