Mobile Sound Level apps Helpful in Managing Sensory Processing Disorder

Android Apps Image
Android Apps

Decibel meter apps are helpful in managing the ill effects of sound exposure in brain injury, hydrocephalus, ADHD, PTSD, and related sensory processing disorders. Sound Meter is best app on Android. The Pro version is $.99. Though either is good. SPLnFFT is said to be best app on iPhone. Many are accurate enough for these purposes. Plus, what you really need, is comparative analysis of sound to medical sequela in the same app.

The science in support of monitoring sound level exposure comes amid findings that “sound” can trigger medical sequela, and result in a combative child or even adult out in public. The sequela typically ares headache, nausea, decreased cognition, irritability, and behavioral outbursts, and occurs in persons suffering from a variety of neurological injury & disorders. Light, motion, and scents are also triggers. The sensitivity, and type of trigger, does vary somewhat from person to person.

The medical condition for this is termed “sensory processing disorder” or SPD, and sometimes termed “sensory integration disorder,” and these tend to follow brain injury, neurological surgery (numerous ones including hydrocephalus and tumor), and many types of neurological disorders.

Brain Diagram of the Cranial Nerves
Brain Diagram of the Cranial Nerves

At any given time, the effected person is vulnerable to a range and type of sound triggers. Yet, this sensitivity and vulnerability often may not be known until AFTER the exposure. Often all it takes is 30 secs of problematic sound exposure to set off a sequel of SPD complaints. Then, you’re dealing with a medical problem.

Certainly the big ones like loud machinery, music, and room noise are predictable. But it is the not so loud and obvious exposures that’ll get you. And NOT knowing at any given time what your sensitivity or threshold is. And this comes from trial & experience.

I recommend downloading one of these apps and using it regularly for a couple of weeks to learn of your LOWEST threshold decibel levels – for when you’re not feeling well, and for various venues. Then, you can do things with more confidence in that you know your thresholds and can take the necessary interventions SOONER to avoid an ill spell or “melt down” in public. Today I learned too late, after being near a store playing loud overhead music. It was registering over 80 db on my Sound Meter app. I had not checked the sound level when I arrived. Once your system is triggered, it is often too late for other interventions or measures, and you’re likely going to have to leave that venue.

Unfortunately, current apps do not measure frequency distribution or sharp spikes in sound. Sound between 5000 Hz – 10,000 Hz is often problematic for individuals suffering with SPDs. The other causative elements includes sharp spikes in decibel level, and disordered sound presenting as “white noise.” If you, or a family member, suffers from sensory processing disorder, you know what I mean.

I undertook a sound sensory study in 2002 using a metronome to evaluate SPD complaint responses to various rhythmic patterns, and I was able to show that the component in sound most responsible for SPD complaints was “lack of rhythmic pattern.” My findings explain why white noise, or room noise, is so problematic. Read my full study below:

Study on Sound, Cognition and Sensory Processing

Boss BR-8 includes a full 50 selection Metronome
Boss BR-8 includes a full 50 selection Metronome

There are many treatments today that have found varying degrees of success in raising a person’s threshold to SPDs. They include: EMDR therapy, music therapy, group drumming (in which I have conducted research), bio feedback, mindfulness, basketball, meditation, occupational therapy. A variety of mild barbiturate medicines find use as well. I can’t say enough about the importance of proper rest & diet, managing stress, and drinking plenty of water. Vestibular exercises, meditation, mindfulness, and biofeedback therapies seem to help raise an affected persons sound intolerance.

New Dolle Communications Web Page on Cognitive Neuroscience

The brain and sensory system during cognition.
The brain and sensory system during cognition.

Once an exposure and SPD medical sequel has begun, your options include:
1) have the individual stay focused & “engaged” in an activity
2) insert quality ear plugs (suggest musician’s ear plugs)
3) remove the affected person from the triggering noise source
4) administer barbituate, pain or calming medication
5) force hydration preferable with water

On June 4, 2015, I published an extensive blog on basketball – which includes methods in shooting baskets, mindfulness, biofeedback & relaxation, and including drumming with basketball – which helps the brain, movement disorders, intolerance to sound, post concussion syndrome, and relieves stress.

(Dolle Blog) Sports Science vs Brain Science of Basketball

Basketball allows participants to feel and move rhythmically with a touch sensitive ball
Basketball allows participants to feel and move rhythmically with a touch sensitive ball

Understanding Sound Sensory Processing & your Intolerance Level

If you suffer from sound sensory processing difficulties, I suggest you try one of the available decibel meter apps. I use the Smart Tools Pro Sound Meter pictured below. It also has a built in Vibrometer to evaluate motion say on a boat or car. You need to become familiar with your sound threshold range and intolerance, and screen typical levels at places you visit. You’ll need to add further consideration if there is machinery or other problematic noise that the individual would normally not process very well. All it takes is 30 secs of a problematic sound exposure to set off a sequel of SPD complaints. Develop good rules of practice.

Decibel Meter by Smart Tools
Decibel Meter by Smart Tools

Call for a Sound Sensory Processing Scale & Algorithm of Measurement

The decibel sound scale is now more than 50 years old. Its time we create a Sound Processing Scale & Algorithm for Measurement
The decibel sound scale is now more than 50 years old. Its time we create a Sound Processing Scale & Algorithm for Measurement

The current challenge is that these apps only measure level of volume. What we need, is a sound distribution EQ scale to equate how the brain processes sound (along with volume), which would require a convening of neurologists to scientists study this relationship, and establish a new sound scale to include the difficulty of processing of sound distributions. Sound engineers already know a great deal about the distribution or EQ of sound. To establish a sound processing scale, we would only need to equate various EQ sound patterns with the level of difficulty of processing by the brain. There are already sound identification apps that can identify patterns in music and ID them by song name. Two very popular apps are Soundhound and Shazam. We could use these existing sensors and algorithms to ID sound as very unforavorable vs acceptable in terms of ability to be processed by the brain. Persons with brain injury, learning and neurological disorders, and SPD (sensory processing disorder) have a diminished capacity to process sound, which I believe pares the degree and location of deficits in the brain. So, I have proposed the development of a sound processing scale and algorithm.

This new sound processing scale would encompass:

1. decibel volume and rate of change between volume levels (i.e. spikes)
2. EQ frequency distribution of the sound
3. rhythmic distribution and synchronization of the sound (i.e. white noise)

I host a larger blog on sensory processing challenges with examples of problematic sounds of machinery, etc. Just follow the link below. I try and keep these blogs up to date as time permits. My biggest new discovery in SPD comes after a study I undertook almost two years ago with the MigraineX ear plugs used in the management of headache, but also in sound suppression. I found that insertion of the MigraineX ear plugs before, and even after a harmful sound exposure has occurred, can lessen the associated headache, irritability, cognitive, and SPD complaints by 50% or more. Yes, I said SPD. So I carry the MigraineX ear plugs with me all the time. They are particularly helpful amid noise from construction, machinery, malls, restaurants, theatre halls, and more. They sell for about $12 on Amazon and many drug stores.

Secondly, I have been undertaking new barometric pressure monitoring utilizing my Samsung phone’s built in barometric pressure sensor. The built in sensor can display sharp Short term changes in pressure that weather sites often do not display. Most newer high end smart phones have this sensor built in. But you need to download an app to get the display. For this, I use the uBarometer Pro.

(Blog) New Insights in Sound Sensory Processing Disorder

If any app developers are reading this, I’d love to collaborate with you on building an SPD intollerance sound EQ app for screening of problematic sound. I can advise scientifically and in the UI (user interface, I have a good tech bkg-see page below). I’d like to couple an app with a Melon or NeuroSky EEG headband to try and correlate changes on EEG waveform with reported SPD complaints. SEE my extensive work in hydrocephalus monitoring and DiaCeph Test app design.
ADA laws with respect to sound protection for persons with SPDs is termed “cognitive accessibility.” There is an interesting legal case between families of children with autism and Disney, regarding Disney’s cancellation of the handicap pass to circumvent affected visitors standing in long lines, thereby forcing affected children to stand in line amid commotion and noise, which is unhealthful and can trigger behavioral outburst and a number of medical sequela in SPDs.

Deadline.com: Disney sued by Families with Autism over Handicap Pass

Cognitive Accessibility in SPDs.Hulk Destroys Tree Shredder
Cognitive Accessibility in SPDs.Hulk Destroys Tree Shredder

I am advocating for a new sound processing standard to encapsulate the brain’s role in processing sound. Persons suffering neurological disorders and from SPDs have a diminshed capacity to process sensory information, sound being the most common issue.

I host a related web page on sensory processing and cognitive or intellectual disabilities at www.CognitiveAccessibility.org.

Please visit my web site and contact me accordingly. Best method of contact is email.
Stephen Dolle
Neuroscientist, mHealth Inventor & Drum Circle Facilitator
Email: contact[at]dollecommunications[dot]com
Hydrocephalus Survivor w/ 12 Shunt Revisions
DolleCommunications.com

Justice Department rejects Disability Complaint on Sound Accessibility at YMCA of Orange County, Similar Venues

Complaint to the U. S. Justice Dept for sound sensitivity accomodation for loud music and screaming at YMCA of Orange County
Complaint to the U. S. Justice Dept for sound sensitivity accomodation for loud music and screaming at YMCA of Orange County

This blog discusses my disability rights complaint to the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division, and request for a sound sensory accommodation from loud music and screaming broadcast all over my YMCA of Orange County fitness center where I was a member. I had been a member from 2007 to 2011. But it was in the later part of 2010 that a new fitness director was hired, who began putting on zumba classes with loud music and screaming, which was then broadcast all over the gym. Being exposed to this in the adjacent rooms then made me ill.

I undertook numerous remedies to bring a resolution to this. I was eventually asked WHY I couldn’t tolerate it, that loudness levels were within limits set my their national organiozation, and was told to where ear plugs when in the facility – which I tried for a while. But I kept having to take them out when a nearby member spoke to me. Other members (esp seniors) I was told discontinued their membership due to the unhealthful noise. Earlier in 2007, I had abandoned my 25 year membership at 24 Hour Fitness after they began playing loud overhead music. This YMCA gym could have, and should have, made the necessary accommodation I requested. In their ruling, DOJ rejected my complaint in its entirety and instructed me to seek other (esp. civil) remedies. In my opinion, both were legally and morally in the wrong! But there’s very little advocacy for SPD and sound sensory disabilities.

YMCA’s practices effectively barred me and other members with sensory processing disorder from using their fitness facility. The loud music and screaming gave me headaches, nausea, made me dizzy, and irritable – not unlike motion sickness. This is a known medical response for affected individuals to this type of sound sensory stimuli. And it gets better. After I filed my complaint to DOJ, the fitness director created a fake incident alleging I was disturbing other members, where I was told my membership was no longer good. I left and never returned!

Prior to filing my complaint with DOJ, I verbally and requested in writing to management for a change in their music broadcast policiesYMCA declinded to make any accommodation or modification. This was also after I had done volunteer work (music therapy) for this YMCA, and after others (affected seniors) had donated money.

It took DOJ two years to respond with a “no.” My complaint was filed with the “Disability Rights” division, who has jurisdiction over public and private facilities for disability rights accommodations. My complaint asked DOJ to draft new language of protections applicable to public and private venues across the U.S. where loud music or machinery poses unhealthful consequences to persons with neurological and sensory processing disorders.

Mostly what this YMCA needed do as an accommodation – was keep the door of the Zumba classroom closed. But management decided it more important to leave the door open, despite the room already having numerous open windows to the outside that brought in fresh air, and instead chose to broadcast the loud music and screaming through the rest of the facility.

Below is my complaint to DOJ and request for accommodation to the YMCA of Orange County, both of which were denied. These parties theated sound sensitivity and sensory processing disorder as though it were a “comfort” issue, rather than health issue.

Brain centers involved in SPD or sensory processing disorder, courtesy of UCSF
Brain centers involved in SPD or sensory processing disorder, courtesy of UCSF

A large segment of the U.S. population suffers from sensory processing disorder as a result of either autism, post TBI, PTSD, ADHD, hydrocephalus, post tumor, post stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, migraine disorder, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and more. Affected individuals become very sensitive to loud/erratic sound, from music, machinery, loud raucious TV commercials, and other types of sound which carries elements which are problematic to affected individuals. The affected Americans account for 15-20 percent of the population. These unhealthful sound levels for many, are often protected by years old standards of the decibel scale & chart below. But, these acceptable limits are coming under fire as I share further below.

Standard decibel chart approved many years ago before much was known about the brain or sensory processing.
Standard decibel chart approved many years ago before much was known about the brain or sensory processing.

The above chart has been coming under fire. OSHA, the primary authority over unhealthful sound in the workplace, still agrees with the more liberable interpretation above.

The decibel chart offers some additional insight to how the readings are made. Today mobile apps also provide decibel readings.
The decibel chart offers some additional insight to how the readings are made. Today mobile apps also provide decibel readings.

This next chart illustrates the decibel levels of common machinery.

This decibel chart provides decibel readings from many common machinery.
This decibel chart provides decibel readings from many common machinery.

Now we’re getting a little more current science with this next chart, which factors in reporting by persons exposed to what were thought of as otherwise safe decibel levels. And none of this yet takes into consideration the loss of sensory processing function by persons with neurological injury and disorders, and related SPD. When affected individuals are unable to tolerate these sound/noise levels, that raises ACCESSIBILITY to public and private facilities. Such facilities would include health clubs, restaurants, night clubs, churches, schools, malls, art & music venues and events, fairs, parks, and the like.

Study of group response to decibel levels otherwise considered safe by the decibel scale.
Study of group response to decibel levels otherwise considered safe by the decibel scale.

The image below illustrates the critical brain areas in volved in sensory processing.

Drumming and the Brain.diagram

In 2016, technology has made decibel meters available as mobile phone apps. I use the Smart Tools decibel app. However, what is needed is an app and new sound standard to measure the EQ mix of sound and its likely effect on sound processing. Such data would then lower the effective healthful range of sound.

Choose the right decibel app.
Chosing the right mHealth App can be confusing.

In individuals such as myself, I will have good days and bad days, where my sound intolerance can vary and leave me in a pickle if I ignore the early warning signs. As an affected individual, you need to be aware at any given time of the status of your sensory intolerance, so you can make your optional adjustments as needed. However, there still needs to be new efforts in mitigating the hap-hazard broadcast of sound and noise as so many people are effected, with many more becoming affected who aren’t aware.

As for regulatory actions against noise, the only one that comes to mind is Congress 2012 ruling on the CALM Act – intended to prevent volume raising of TV commercials. But nothing has changed. Obnoxiously loud and ridiculous TV commercials continue on almost all channels. And on radio too. While the science in support of sensory processing disorder and affected neurological disorders exists, the U.S. government and DOJ have acted to deny the science, accommodations, and disability rights protections, while advocating for bizarre new and usual protections for special interests groups. I challenge those who deny this, to play such sounds at an official’s or company office. You will likely be thrown out! So WHY is this exposure OK for the general public? I discuss this in more detail in my 2015 blog on Tips and Information on sound related Sensory Processing Disorder below.

New sound standards and measurements must occur for there to be progress. There first needs to be a revision to current safe decibel scale, to revise it to reflect the health needs of persons with SPD disorders. Next, I am advocating a NEW decibel scale to include a “sound processing component” to account for how the human brain processes sound. Examples of difficult sounds are machinery with fast unbroken patterns, TV & radio commercials where a person is talking fast or screaming with music playing at full volume, and music with people screaming and yelling.

Cognitive Accessibility in SPDs.Hulk Destroys Tree Shredder
Cognitive Accessibility in SPDs.Hulk Destroys Tree Shredder

Since this blog was authored in 2013, I have added a new web page of information for sensory processing disorders and cognitive disabilities at CognitiveAccessibility.org, as well as several new blogs which I discuss below.

Cognitive Accessibility.org

In 2015, I authored this important blog on tips and new information on sound related sensory processing disorder, or SPD, which includes updated supporting blogs and web content on this important subject. I am hoping to find the time and energy to build a complete web site for CognitiveAccessibility.org to advocate and share science on sensory processing disorder and cognitive disabilities. In this blog below, I also share some of my efforts with drumming and drum circles that can raise one’s level of intolerance, and improve over well being.

Tips & Information on Sound related Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Drumming Therapy helps Children with Autism, ADHD, and ADD with Focus and Initiation of Action.
Drumming Therapy helps Children with Autism, ADHD, and ADD with Focus and Initiation of Action.

We have supporting science. Now we simply need to connect it to protections and managing in everyday living thru accommodations, technology, and awareness.

Earlier in 2002, I undertook an important study on sensory processing disorder, which is also discussed in the above updated blog:

 2002 Study in Support of Sound related Sensory Processing Disorder 

If you would like me to speak on my efforts with sensory processing disorder, workplace drumming or therapeutic drumming, please contact me via the information below. 

Stephen Dolle
Neuroscientist & Drum Circle Facilitator
Dolle Communications
Email: contact[at]dollecommunications[dot]com