For many people with autism, noise can be particularly problematic due to sensory processing issues. Sounds may be magnified for them and harder to tune out. This can make the world around them incredibly overwhelming and can lead to meltdowns.
However, a recent invention is helping some autistic people better deal with the world around them. And it’s an invention that wasn’t necessarily intended for sensory processing issues to begin with.
They’re called Vibes. These unique earplugs, running $23.99 per pair, do not aim to block out sound entirely; they simply tone it down.
They were invented by Jackson Mann, who ruptured his eardrum at a concert because the music was too loud. The cheap, foam earplugs you can buy for a couple bucks in the drug store were, in his words, “big, bright, [and] dorky.” Even worse, they muffled and distorted sound. Not so great for entertainment purposes, needless to say. So he came up with these earplugs that would still allow people to hear stuff, but at a lower volume.
This cool-sounding and innovative invention has gained traction in the autism community. They are more discreet than noise-canceling headphones and foam earplugs. More importantly, they allegedly work wonders.
One customer story in particular brought tears to Mann’s eyes—the story of Noah, an autistic individual who had tried a number of different noise blockers with no success.
“We have tried ear muffs, ear phones, ear plugs, and even ear phones with his electronics playing to try and buffer the sound that tends to cause him displeasure,” said his father, Dan. But then they tried Vibes at a theatrical production. Noah, previously bothered by the sounds that swelled around him, was totally fine once he stuck those special earplugs in.
From that point on, life changed for Noah. He has even been able to take a cruise vacation with his family. “I tell people about them nonstop, because it makes a big difference,” said Dan.
Though Mann didn’t intend to make Vibes for the special needs community, he is delighted to hear that they are helping that particular demographic and is now focused on helping it.
“This was a discovery for us as much as it has been for other people, in terms of finding out that our product can really work in their lives to make it better,” he said.
Talk about an exciting and serendipitous development!
A. Stout received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing through Grand Valley State University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2015. In addition to being a passionate autism advocate, she is a member of various fandoms, a study abroad alumna, and an animal lover. She dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world someday.