So I finally decided to try out fancy noise canceling earbuds, and I think tonight I have finally learned what an “unpleasant” sound is like that is also not overwhelming, painful, agitating, or distracting.

I buy a snack that has crinkly wrapping, so I usually take all of them out and put them in a freezer bag (I reuse the bag every week). I hadn’t done that yet, so I decided to try it with these noise canceling earbuds—and now I suddenly understand how other people can hear a noise and not immediately be overwhelmed/panicked/physically in pain by it. When I hear crinkling (chips/aluminum foil) it’s like my brain just goes off, sometimes even with headphones on, because it is so chaotic and painful.

Somehow with this noise canceling, that didn’t happen and I was more like “that’s unpleasant but it’s not feeling like I’m dying,” and I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that with this sound. But it also makes me realize that people are comparing my reactions to what they’re hearing which is so far off from my experience.

Every time I find a new ear protection tool, I am more and more amazed as to how other people can believe that we’re hearing the same thing. I wear headphones most of the time, but I think these noise-canceling earbuds might really reduce certain frequencies that extensively hurt and/or overwhelm my ears.

The first time trying them out kind of feels like magic (getting the right seal can take a bit though). Now here’s hoping my tinnitus won’t get worse by using them (yay)!

Before people ask (this is not an ad or sponsored, I just know people will ask), I am using the Google Pixel Buds Pro. I’ve heard of similar success with AirPods or other noise-canceling earbuds or headphones though, and if you’re interested in investigating ear protection, here’s a list of ear protection recommended by autistic people.

It really sucks that so many sensory supports for autistic people are so expensive and so not often considered to be accommodations that are necessary for us to function. I’m just imagining what a difference it would’ve made, if I had access to this kind of accommodation in elementary school.

General pro/cons for different types of ear protection:


  • Cons: Itchy ears over time, louder chewing/talking, potential ear pain
  • Pros: Quite good at reducing sound levels and more discrete


  • Cons: Pressure, potential worse tinnitus, may hear some white noise
  • Pros: Dynamic, your speaking voice and eating may be less loud compared to earplugs, usually can still be aware of your surroundings


  • Cons: Scalp pressure, jaw pressure, temple pain from glasses/have to maneuver glasses differently
  • Pros: Very little ear pain, no internal ear issues, no falling out and losing
Photo of a hand reaching out from a pile of noise-canceling headphones.
[image: Photo of a hand reaching out from a pile of noise-canceling headphones.]