Growing up I was always known as the “sensitive” one in the family. I was known as the girl who wore her heart on her sleeve and who needed a lot of alone time. At church, plays, concerts and other performances I found I couldn’t enjoy or even tolerate the amount of noise within the building. I had a hard time in the cafeteria at school making out conversations because the amount of background noise would distract away from what the other person was saying. It was embarrassing and I found myself simply pretending I heard what was said. I have, in the past, been accused of being a bad listener which is so sad. I am a very empathetic and understanding person who gets distracted my other noises.
I found myself in counseling years later. We began to explore a lot of hard moments from my past and I came to realize that I am what is considered an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). Although it is not an official diagnosable disorder, it is a set of personality traits that explain a heightened sense of emotions, feelings and sensory overload especially with light and sound.
Professionally, I perform physical therapy in a rehab hospital with traumatically injured people (spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, muli-trauma injuries, etc.). As a busy and fast-paced workplace I find myself struggling to keep up with quality and time-efficient documentation due to the amount of noise the department holds. This was made more difficult after I suffered a mild brain injury a fews years back. I found bright lighting and background noise really hindered not only my concentration but also my mood, increasing my irritability. Now I have a quiet desk area where my desk partner and I keep the lights dimmed, and if the noise level rises, I can throw my dBuds on and be the productive person I need to be.
At home, I am married to my husband Matt for 9 years and have two amazing kids (Mae-8, and Ike-6) Ike has similar sensitivities like I do. He has worn noise-canceling headphones since going into preschool to help cope with noise over stimulation. We had even had his hearing tested at one point because he was sitting down and we didn't know if he was overstimulated it hard of hearing. Watching him struggle helped me look for solutions to our noise-tolerances. While I have tried wearing the chunky, over-the-ear headphones, the pressure gives me a headache after only about 20 minutes of wearing them. I have tried the small foam inserts but they don’t stay in and they’re single use which feels bad for the environment. I began looking for reusable and small noise-cancelling buds ( I wasn’t even sure that was a thing). I found a few on amazon but the reviews spoke for themselves with people posting pictures of the loops falling apart after one use. After that, I found dBud and they seemed too good to be true (I tried to cancel the order after I placed it because I was convinced I was being scammed). Lucky for me, they arrived and they have been everything I have been looking for! They are so soft and comfortable to wear. I can adjust the noise-buffer as needed. With my dBuds in ear, I'm now well on my journey to get my master's degree in didactics and hope to one day call myself a registered dietitian. I have always considered myself to be incapable of higher learning or because of my limitations and distractibility. Now I will have the choice! I have the tools to help me achieve really anything I put my mind to.
About Jennifer: "I'm a working mom with HSP who is currently working to get my Master's Degree. I'm audibly sensitive and being able to drown out the background noise has been key to focusing to get good grades and understanding what I read."
When did you first notice that you had HSP?
I have been called names my whole life: sensitive, cry-baby, bawl-baby, too emotional, distracted, not-listening, intuitive, vulnerable, empathetic (these areclassic signs of HSP), I first learned about HSP during a stent of counseling at the same time my son was being tested for hearing issues and realized we both struggle with the same trait. I really struggle reading, writing, and attention with other noises around me.
What other hearing products have you tried in the past?
I have tried over-the-ear covers (like shooting range ear covers) but they give me a massive headache, the inner ear foams are just gross feeling to wear, they don’t stay in, and they only are good for one use, I've also tried calming medication and vitamins.
Do you have any noises that trigger you more than others?
Background noise is my major trigger (at a coffee shop, cafeteria, my work’s therapy gym that frequently has 60-80 people in a space talking)
Is HSP your superpower and/or can it be?
I love that I am an HSP, I am the first one to notice when someone is having a hard day, I can empathize deeply, I read the room very accurately, I am very authentic (I am frequently told that I cannot lie even if I tried because my face gives it away), I pay attention to subtle details and can meet the need before it is even realized. I genuinely believe this trait makes me a great mom!
Any advice for someone struggling with HSP?
Anyone with HSP should first read the book The Highly Sensitive Person - Elaine Aron, once they know themselves better and how their HSP presents they can feel their superpower and gather the tools they need to manage the harder part - overstimulation. Talk with a professional for additional support.
Get in contact with Jennifer: