People with Autism May Be Triggered by Cicada Sounds This Year as Brood X Hatches

Cicadas. We’ve all heard them, but they bother some of us more than others. If you or someone you know struggles with sensitivity to sounds, you may put a few extra plans in place to prepare for cicada season this year.

Cicadas are strange creatures. Some species show up every summer, while others, known as “periodical cicadas,” only arrive once every few years. These periodical broods are generally staggered and don’t come out on the same years, which helps keep the noise level down, but there’s one particularly large brood, known as “Brood X,” that can create a fair bit of noise all on its own.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Manikini

Brood X only emerges once every 17 years. In the interim years, cicada nymphs live underground and feed off the sap from tree roots until it’s time for them to mature. Then they emerge from the ground to mate, lay eggs, and die, all within four to six weeks.

The last time Brood X emerged was in 2004, 17 years ago. Now it’s 2021, and they’re back, hatching and making their loud chirping noises in backyards across the country. The sound, which might be described as “crickets on steroids,” can be annoying to anyone, but people with autism may be especially susceptible to the sound.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Camille Lamoureux

“It can be up to about 100 decibels, and that’s really quite loud,” says Dr. Ian Windmill, PhD, FAAA, the director of audiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, “The average voice is about 50 to 60 decibels, and a shout is about 70 to 75 decibels.”

Dr. Windmill recommends staying indoors when possible and using hearing protection when outside. It might also help to introduce a person with autism to the sound of cicadas slowly via recordings before the real cicadas reach their peak to help get them accustomed to the sound.

Check out the video below to learn more.

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