You Have Eight Senses Not Five

You are probably surprised to learn that you have eight senses.  Though in truth, you likely have more than eight senses. However, for today you will learn about just eight senses. You will learn about your senses, your brain and your body, sensory sensitivity, and sensory overload.

First, a list of your eight senses:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Taste
  4. Touch
  5. Smell
  6. Movement
  7. Balance
  8. Interoception

Words that describe each of your eight senses.

Sight is your visual sense through your eyes. Other words used to describe your sense of sight are visual, vision, see, seeing, and looking.

Hearing is your sense of noise and sound through your ears. Other words used to describe your sense of hearing are auditory, hear, and listening.

Taste is sensed through your tongue and mouth. Another word used to describe your sense of taste is gustatory.

Touch is sensed through your skin. Other words to describe your sense of touch are tactile and feel.

Smell is sensed through your nose. Other words uses to describe smells are scents.

Movement is sensed through sensory receptors in your joints and muscles and also your inner ear. Another word used to describe your sense of movement is proprioception. Proprioception tells you where your body, arms and legs are in space. More words you might see are moving, body movement or proprioceptive.

Balance is sensed through your inner ear. Another words use to describe balance is vestibular. Your vestibular sense tells you where your head is space and helops keep you upright.

Interoception in an internal body sense. Another word uses is interoceptive. It tells you if you are hungry, thirsty, if you have to go to the toilet. And helps you sense your internal organs.

Sensory differences in your eight senses.

Your senses tell your brain about what your body is experiencing.  Moreover, some people have differences in how one or more of their senses work, compared to most other people.  Consequently, for people with sensory disorders, they look for events, places, products, and services that are sensory-friendly.

Let’s go through the senses for examples of how your sensory system might work with a difference or in a way that is a problem.

1. Vision and sight.

Person holding out their glasses in front of them.

Wearing glasses may suggest that you have a difference in your vision.  For instance, for most people who require corrective lenses, glasses, or contact lenses take care of the problem.

However, for some people with differences in their sense of vision, corrective lenses may not solve the problem. For example the might have low vision, partial vision or be blind. Additionally, some people are bothered by bright lights, flickering lights and flashing lights.

These are examples of why someone might look for a sensory-friendly environment with lower and less lighting.

Moreover, you also might see people who wear wrap-around sunglasses or special glasses indoors, even when it is a cloudy day.

For instance, many people wear blue light blocking glasses to work at a screen.  Furthermore, some people may tell you that they do not like being in places that are overly crowded and cluttered because their sense of vision becomes overwhelmed.

2. Hearing and sound.

Girl wearing headphones standing in park.

More and more you see people wearing noise-cancelling headphones to listen to music and even earmuffs to block out sound.   There are even specially sized earmuffs for infants and toddlers.  Many people, including both children and adults, use earplugs for sleep.

Some people are easily startled by loud sounds.  On the other hand, some people are bothered by background noise, like music playing on overhead speakers.  Similarly, simply the sound of a crowded and busy place can be bothersome for some individuals.

People with hearing loss, even those who wear hearing aids, have difficulty when there is a lot of ambient noise.

Though many people are bothered by sudden noises, even if they are not unduly loud.

Sensory Friendly Solutions survey results consistently reveal that noise is the most common problem. 

3.  Tasty or not?

Young Asian girl eating ice cream.

Know someone who likes bland food?  Do you know a child who follows the “beige diet?”  Some children with sensory processing disorders only eat beige food including foods like bread, chicken fingers, fries and cereal.

Some people, not just children, simply cannot tolerate the taste of spicy food.  Or the taste of very specific foods bothers them.

Divided plates can help children and adults who are bothered by different foods touching each other. 

4. Touch and tactile sensitivity.

Baby holding adults finger.

Do you know someone who cuts the tags off all their clothes? Maybe you’ve even heard of sensory-friendly clothing.  This is a popular product for children with autism.

Possibly you don’t like wool sweaters yourself because they are scratchy. Sometimes seams in socks can be bothersome for individuals.  Seamless socks exist for all ages!

For other people, they do not like being hugged or touched a lot.

5.  Sensitivity to smell and scents.

Person smelling flower.

Ever meet someone who cannot stand to have scented candles in their house.  Maybe you know someone who is bothered by perfumes.  For some people, scents and smells can cause asthma attacks.

For other people, their sense of smell is so acute that they are bothered by things you don’t even register.

Smells are not limited to diffusers or sprays and even the smell of certain foods can be a challenge and make people feel ill. Fragrance-free odour absorbers can help.

6.  Proprioception: you are moving.

Young person biking through urban city.

Proprioception is another big word, it means your sense of muscle and joints. This sense tells you where and how your body is moving.  It tells you what your arms, legs, trunk and neck are doing.

If you close your eyes, you likely can still touch your nose with a finger.  This is because your sense of proprioception tells your shoulder, arm, hand, and finger exactly how much to move to reach your nose.  You don’t see it move, you don’t hear it move and you only feel it when your finger makes contact.

Some people like moving a lot whereas some people do not like moving at all.  Indoor, mini-trampolines are popular for people of all ages who like to move!

7.  Your vestibular sense means balance.

Young person breakdancing balancing on one hand.

Vestibular sounds like a big word but it just means your sense of balance.

You use this sense all the time, even just sitting up.  You use it too when you move, especially while moving your head.   So you use your sense of balance when you sit, walk, stand, dance, or climb.

Your balance can be challenged if you are in a moving vehicle such as a car, bus, train, boat, or plane.   Some people are more susceptible to motion sickness and you might see them wearing armbands to try to prevent nausea.  That means there is a difference in their vestibular sense.

People who are afraid of heights have a sense of balance that is more acute too.

8.  A new word: interoception.

Individual swimming in a lake

Interoception is likely a new word to you.  It is a sense that is being newly described in recent years.  Although it isn’t really new!

This is your internal body sense.  It gives you information from your nervous system and organs.  For example, telling you about your breathing and helping to coordinate your breath.  Additionally, it tells you if you are hungry, thirsty or if you need to use the toilet.

For some people, they have difficulty recognizing these signals from their body.  Additionally, research, “The Relationship between Sensory Sensitivity and Autistic Traits in the General Population” by Ashley E. Robertson and David R. Simmons (2012) found that difficulties with sensory processing is responsible for many of the differences seen among children with autism 1. Different brains for different people!  Practicing meditation, for example, helps people get in touch with the connection between their body and their brain, their sense of interoception.

You have at least eight senses. Enjoy them all! For more information on the 8 senses, check out the Children’s Home Society blog post.

Learn about problems with the senses:

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  1. Robertson, A. E., & Simmons, D. R. (2012). The Relationship between Sensory Sensitivity and Autistic Traits in the General Population. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(4), 775–784.
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