Sensory Hypersensitivities: After brain injury

Sensory Hypersensitivities: After brain injury

Barbara J. Webster
After brain injury, sensory hypersensitivities are a real concern and can contribute to fatigue and overload. This tip card helps survivors, families, and caregivers identify signs and symptoms of sensory hypersensitivities and offers coping strategies to overcome sensory overload, pain and fatigue.
Item: HYPE
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Full Description

If your sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing or vision seems extra sensitive after your brain injury, it is not your imagination. This tip card offers an explanation and examples of sensory hypersensitivities, including being startled by sounds and feeling like everyone is talking too loudly. The card has valuable tips on coping with these and other sensitivities like sound, light, touch, taste and smell. There are also strategies for doing cognitive work, help with reading and learning how to make the most of “brain breaks” with details on how to meditate.
Pages 8
Year 2011


Barbara J. Webster

As a survivor of a brain injury and leader of hundreds of support groups for the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, Barbara Webster has extensive knowledge and experience with the cognitive challenges of traumatic brain injury. She is also author of a comprehensive workbook for survivors, families and caregivers titled, Lost and Found: A Survivor’s Guide for Reconstructing Life after a Brain Injury. She is a talented and compassionate author and workshop leader on the challenges, frustrations and rewards of rebuilding life after brain injury.


Sensory Hypersensitivity

  • Basic tips on coping with sensory hypersensitivities

  • Tips on coping with sound sensitivity

  • Tips on coping with light sensitivity

  • Tips on coping with touch, taste and smell

  • Tips for doing cognitive work


  • Tips to help with reading

“Brain Breaks” Meditation

  • Tips on meditating




Sensory Hypersensitivity

Your senses are sending more signals and more information to your injured brain to process. You may have difficulty processing and organizing sensory information just like any other information coming into your brain. Some examples of sensory hypersensitivities are:

  • being overwhelmed by background noises and stimuli
  • getting headaches from bright lights/fluorescent lights
  • being irritated by your clothing
  • feeling overwhelmed at large gatherings of people
These hypersensitivities can be intensified by pain and fatigue. Sights and sounds that never were bothersome before your injury may now trigger anxiety and cause shutdowns. This can be physically and mentally draining. Being aware of sensory hypersensitivities and knowing the symptoms can help you cope.

Basic tips on coping with sensory hypersensitivities...

ü       Avoid crowds and chaotic places like shopping malls.

ü       Do shopping and other errands early in the day and early in the week when it is quieter and less crowded.

ü       Shop in small quiet stores.

ü       Go to restaurants between regular meal times when it is generally quieter.

Tips on coping with sound sensitivity…

ü       Limit your exposure to noisy and loud situations, like stores, sporting events, children's activities and movie theaters.

ü       Try using earplugs.

ü       Use headphones for TV and music - for yourself so you can hear better; for others when you don't want to hear what they are listening to.


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