You have eight senses.

You are probably surprised to learn that you have eight senses.  Though in truth, you have more than eight senses, nonetheless for today we are just going to stick to eight for the purposes of understanding your brain and body, sensory sensitivity and sensory overload.

Here is a list of the eight:

  1. Visual sense
  2. Auditory sense
  3. Olfactory sense
  4. Gustatory sense
  5. Tactile sense
  6. Vestibular sense
  7. Proprioception sense
  8. Interoception sense

Also, here are all the words that you might see describing each sense.

Visual:  vision, see, sight, eyes, seeing, looking

Auditory:  hear, hearing, ears, listening

Olfactory:  smell, scent, nose

Tactile:  touch, feel, skin

Gustatory:  taste, mouth

Vestibular:  balance, head movement, inner ear

Proprioception:  muscles, joints, body movement, moving, moving in space, movement, proprioceptive

Interoception:  internal body sense, internal organs, breathe, breathing, hunger, thirst, toilet, toileting, interoceptive

Sensory differences in the 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.

First, let’s review vision and sight.

Vision sense

While wearing glasses may mean that you have a difference in your vision.  For most people who require corrective lenses, glasses or contacts take care of the problem.

But for some people with differences in their sense of vision, corrective lenses may not solve the problem.  They may have low vision.  Some people are bothered by bright lights.  Flickering lights.  Flashing lights.

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

As well, you also might see people who wear sunglasses indoors.  Or even when it is a cloudy day.  Furthermore, people may tell you they do not like being in places that are crowded and cluttered because their sense of vision becomes overwhelmed.

Second, let’s explore hearing.Auditory sense

More and more you see people wearing noise-canceling headphones and even earmuffs to block out sound.

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 din of a crowded, busy place is bothersome.

People with hearing loss, even people who wear hearing aids may 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.

Sense of smell

Third, read about sensitivity to smell.

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, even the smell of certain foods can be a challenge and make people feel ill.

Forth, is something tasty or not?

Know someone who likes bland food?  As an occupational therapist who worked with children for many years, I call this the beige diet.  Some children with sensory processing disorders only ate beige food.  Think bread, chicken fingers, fries, cereal.

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

Fifth, what about tactile sensitivity?

sense of touchKnow someone who cuts the tags off all their clothes? Maybe you’ve even heard of sensory-friendly clothing.

Or possibly you don’t like wool sweaters yourself because they are scratchy.

Sometimes seams in socks are bothersome.

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


Sixth, your vestibular sense.

sense of balance

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 when you move your head.   So you use your sense of balance when you sit, walk, stand, dance or climb.

And 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.  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.


Seventh, proprioception tells you how you are moving.

sense of movementProprioception is another big word, it means your sense of muscle and joints.

It tells you where and how your body is moving.  It tells you what your arms and legs and trunk and neck are doing.

If you close your eyes, you can still touch your nose with a finger.  That is because your sense of proprioception tells your should, 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, some people do not like moving at all.


Eighth, a new word, interoception.

sense of breathingInteroception 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!

It is your internal body sense from your organs.  Telling you about your breathing, if you are hungry or thirsty.  It also tells you when you have to go to the bathroom.

For some people, they have difficulty recognizing these signals from their body.


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