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The Vanderbilt Sound Sensitivity Study – Understanding How the Brain Processes Sounds in Autistic Adults with and without Sound Sensitivity

February 1, 2022 - October 1, 2022

Many autistic people are extremely bothered by everyday sounds or noises that don’t bother most people, and in severe cases, this sound sensitivity can be significantly disabling. However, the sound sensitivity seen in autism likely represents a combination of multiple different underlying conditions with separate brain mechanisms (e.g., hyperacusis, misophonia, and phonophobia), each of which is only present in a portion of autistic people. The purpose of the current research study is to compare and contrast autistic people with and without these different sound sensitivity syndromes in terms of their clinical symptoms, hearing, brain function, and mental health, which will help us answer fundamental questions about the nature of sound sensitivity in autism and improve the ways in which clinicians diagnose and assess autistic people with this common complaint.

What are the goals of the study?

The purpose of the current research study is to compare and contrast people with and without different sound sensitivity conditions 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?

Eligible participants will be asked to come to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for 2 appointments, each lasting about 3-4 hours. These visits include clinical interviews about sound sensitivity and mental health, psychological and auditory testing, computer-based tasks, and brainwave measurement (EEG) while listening to different kinds of sounds at volumes ranging from soft to loud.

How will this help families?

This study seeks 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. This work will help doctors better diagnose and tell the difference between multiple types of sound sensitivities, particularly in adults, and we hope it will lead to the development of better treatments to help autistic people whose sound sensitivity causes issues in their everyday lives.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for this research study, participants must be at between 18 and 60 years old, speak English fluently, and have either normal hearing or a high-frequency hearing loss. Participants with all levels of sound sensitivity can participate, and both autistic and non-autistic adults can take part.

View the study flyer here.

Contact Information

Bahar Keçeli-Kaysili: bahar.keceli-kaysili@vumc.org

 

Research Study Website

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