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.
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Interestingly, I was told that I acted more withdrawn and moving on to the next tasks was even harder after I got the custom fitted ear plugs.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.