Updates on Using Noise Cancellation for Sensory Overload at Work

Ear plugs and ear muffs for increased hearing protection.

I’ve been using noise cancellation to concentrate better at work and would like to give an update about it.


I used them heavily so that two pairs of earmuffs were broken! I know I’ve written a lot of articles about needing noise cancellation!

Even on the first day of my most recent job, I used dual hearing protection. My goal was to block out music playing and other noise sources which tend to affect my concentration, cause zoning out, and affect other areas of functioning. Thankfully, my job coach mentioned to my employer that I needed hearing protection and they didn’t mind it.

Around this August, the need for hearing protection was reconfirmed. My supervisor noticed that I was easily distracted and it took too long to complete my work. That day during lunch, I even took the time to hand write a letter and showed it to him, pointing out that I thought I needed good hearing protection.

After lunch, I did a simulation of the tasks which was timed. That means instead of doing the actual work, I did it on a workbench so that I could practice it as often as I like. For one of them, it’s reasonable to complete it in 20 to 30 minutes.

For a long time, I was taking 45 to 60 minutes to complete it even when using only ear muffs. When I did the simulation with dual protection, I was able to complete it in less than 25 minutes! My supervisor was even surprised that I was faster doing the simulation compared to doing the real work.

One issue with regular ear plugs is that they get uncomfortable from prolonged usage. If you wear regular ones for a long time, you may find that your ears hurt. I decided to try custom fitted non-vented ear plugs from Nextgen Hearing. The non-vented ones offer the most attenuation. What they did was put silicone in my ear canals to get an impression. They took around a month to arrive. My reasoning was that being able to work was well worth the cost even though they were quite expensive.

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dB Blocker non-vented custom fitted ear plugs.

Once they arrived, I found that they could be worn all day. The problem was that they weren’t really suitable when there’s a lot of movements which my job involves.  Non-vented ones amplify internal noises more than vented ones. The amplified noises can mask sounds too.

Interestingly, I was told that I acted more withdrawn and moving on to the next tasks was even harder after I got the custom fitted ear plugs. They recommended that I experiment including going to a quiet and dim place or taking a walk when overwhelmed. That makes sense because most of the time, autistic people have more than just one area of difficulties.

Because the custom fitted ear plugs seemed to decrease performance, I decided not to use them at work. They were probably be more suitable for desk jobs which involve less movements.

So far, I have other options including turning down the music and not wearing the regular ear plugs all the time. At work, I’m now using dual protection to concentrate during more time sensitive tasks, and using just earmuffs when it’s less busy to let my ears rest.


Experimenting with Breaks on the Autism Spectrum

quietest room
The quietest room in the world.

Breaks are known to improve productivity when done the right way. The challenge is that the right way may be different in autistic people because their brains are wired differently.

For example, while neurotypicals can be energized by socializing, autistic people may find that it consumes energy which means socializing at a restaurant may not be the  best way of recharging. That’s commonly known in the autism community.

Recently, I brought up my concerns about noise sensitivities and executive function to my job coach. She suggested experimenting with breaks. I used my knowledge from the autism community to help take it further. I’ve been experimenting with it in a quiet room alone with noise cancellation for 5 to 10 minutes. I tried daydreaming. It felt more refreshing than when breaks weren’t taken or when I tried keeping busy when there wasn’t much to do.

If there’s nowhere you could be alone, you can try sitting in front or using dividers.

Hopefully it can improve executive function which is often a weakness in autistic people. If it’s effective, then moving on to the next tasks at work should be easier.

Other tips include:

  • stim breaks
  • eye masks
  • alarms
  • experimenting with the timing and frequency of breaks

Do you have any tips for making your breaks more effective? If so, please share by commenting below.

Myth 11: Rear tires should run at (significantly) higher pressure

Off The Beaten Path

To celebrate Bicycle Quarterly‘s 15th anniversary, we are looking at myths in cycling: things we used to believe, but which we’ve since found out not to be true. Today, we explain why your bike’s weight distribution does not directly translate into your tire pressures.

We are partly responsible for the myth that front tires should run at significantly lower pressures. When we first started researching tires, we published Frank Berto’s tire pressure chart, which lists inflation pressures to achieve a ‘tire drop’ of 15% with average tires. That pressure depends on the width of the tire and on the load on the wheel.

Most bikes carry roughly twice as much weight on the rear wheel as on the front (above). So we reasoned that it makes sense to inflate the rear tire twice as hard as the front one. Except it doesn’t work that way.

During hard braking, the…

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Can Proper Stimming Reduce the Risk of Dental Problems in Autistic People?

It’s possible to reduce harmful forms of stimming by focusing on healthy and safe forms. You can find more information in wikiHow. Would it also benefit autistic people who clench their teeth during the day?

Recently, during my dental check up, some signs of teeth clenching such as gum recession and worn surfaces were noted. I recalled daytime teeth clenching in the past few months. Years ago, I experienced daytime teeth clenching too.

My guess is that teeth clenching can be a form of stimming. It’s more subtle than rocking or hand flapping. You can clench your teeth while eating without people noticing it. In healthy chewing, our teeth rarely touch while chewing.

Since the pressure to stim can eventually get too high that we must stim in one way or another, how do autistic people camouflage so well that they’re diagnosed late or never? Is it possible that they stim in subtle ways or stim in ways that look socially acceptable instead?

Besides teeth clenching, other subtle forms of stimming that I do include squeezing my eyes shut, jerking my head, walking or running on the edge of my foot which may cause stress fractures over time, and flexing certain muscles sometimes to the point of soreness. You can look away while when your stims involve your facial muscles. When running or walking, if you squeeze your glutes while your legs move back, it’s hardly noticeable to other people once they reach their range of motion.

It’s hard for me to imagine avoiding both obvious and subtle forms of stimming for a few hours till I get home when there’s pressure to stim one way or another.

I thought I had Tourette Syndrome. Some people who pointed it out called it tics. If different forms of stimming are used, does that mean the person’s autism or need to stim was outgrown?

Since missing teeth and dental restorations are expensive, we should find a way to stop teeth clenching.

Can Chocolate Affect Sleep (Based on Sleep Data)

For the sleep data, chocolate was consumed around 3 pm the day before. The quantity was only two small chocolate pieces.

Screenshot 2018-03-15 19.30.39.png

Interestingly, only 18 minutes was spent in REM sleep.

More sleep data may be needed to draw a conclusion whether chocolate affects sleep quality. Other factors may have affected it which includes:

  • Magnesium supplementation which may improve deep sleep.
  • Milk chocolate which has less caffeine than dark chocolate, tea, or coffee?
  • Sleep start was about half an hour later than the previous night’s.
  • The last time chocolate was consumed was months ago which may affect tolerance to its caffeine. Mineral levels may also affect sleep.