Auditory Desensitization

Persons on the autism spectrum often report hypersensitivity to sound. Efforts have been made to manage this condition, but there is wide room for improvement. One approach - exposure therapy – has promise, and studies show that it can help some individuals overcome sound sensitivities.

In this project, we borrow principles from exposure therapy and use fun, engaging, games to help individuals gradually get used to sounds that they might ordinarily find frightening or painful. Offending sounds are gradually introduced into the games as sound effects, where they are paired with rewarding and pleasant elements of the gameplay.

Auditory Desensitization Game from Rob Morris on Vimeo.

The game depicted above was designed to help an individual overcome extreme sensitivity to the sound of people coughing. The volume of the sound effect increases rapidly within the short span of this video clip. However, in the actual intervention, this sound would start at an extremely low volume and would increase in a slow, hierarchical fashion, over the course of 1-3 weeks.

Research Contact

This project was designed at the MIT Media Lab, by researchers in the Affective Computing Group.

For more information about this project, please contact Rob Morris at:

rmorris [at]