Sense-wise, I would say that after touch, I am most sensitive to sound. I startle – and sometimes jump – at loud noises, despise firecrackers, and have a challenging time focusing in environments where there are multiple competing sounds.
I also love music, particularly live music. My taste in music is fairly broad: I enjoy singer-songwriters, Americana, folk, Celtic, other world music, rock, alternative, and even some heavy metal on occasion.
When I was 23-24, I regularly went to clubs and bars to hear live music. I did some of this before smoking was banned indoors in Albuquerque, so I would often come home smelling of smoke and feeling like I’d been in proximity with too many people. Granted, I may have ignored that feeling and made going more of a priority. After a few months of this, the exhaustion caught up with me.
Now, I have a difficult time imagining going to those places, even if I like who’s playing. I imagine the crowd, the sound bouncing off the walls, the volume tweaked ear-piercingly loud and the distorted sound quality, not being able to understand people when they try to speak to me. Thinking of this is almost enough to overwhelm me as it is. Now, I have a clearer idea of my limits, and I am much more aware of what sensory overload feels like.
Still, I go to music regularly, generally at smaller and more sensory-friendly venues. I know to plan ahead if I go to a larger event.
There have been times where the sound has seemed too loud, and for that, I now have a solution: ear plugs. My earplugs are rated for 18 decibels and are made specifically for musicians or listening to live music. They turn down the volume for me without muffling or distorting the sound.
I’ve had these for over a month now and I carry them with me on my keychain. They’ve certainly helped when I’ve used them. It’s also reassuring to know I have them with me.
My earplug case, along with my keys and my Van Gogh’s Starry Night lanyard keychain.
I’m grateful for my sensory tools. I’m now giving myself permission to say: “That seems too loud to me,” and taking the time to take care of myself, whether it means stepping out for a moment or putting in my ear plugs so I can enjoy the music more.