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Anime and Manga
- The title character of Inuyasha is laid low by overpowering smells a few times thanks to his keen doglike nose. It mostly happens coincidentally, though, rather than being intentional on the part of an enemy.
- Used for comical effect in Karin, where it is revealed that the Vampire's famous aversion to Garlic basically just comes down to enhanced senses, including a very strong sense of smell... so it won't kill them, but they sure will retreat in a hurry, pinching their noses.
- In Change 123, during that guerrilla mission in the American military base on Okinawa, this kind of tactics was used by Tsukishima against the dogs and by Hino against a soldier who used the night vision goggles.
- In Fairy Tail, Kyôka, the leader of the nine demon gates, has the ability to alter a person's senses. She used this to greatly increase Erza's sense of pain, making her scream in agony with even the slightest of hits.
- Several times in Fullmetal Alchemist, most notably using ammonia from dynamite to knock out two chimæra.
- In Pokémon when Team Rocket used a foul smelling gas to deaden the sense of smell of a bunch of Growlithe as part of their plan.
- Also comes into play with Gloom, which produces a smell bad enough to knock out people and Pokémon. This is a rather big problem for Ash when facing Erika's.
- Code Geass: When a telepath geass user was exposed to a massive crowd, the character has a mental breakdown.
- In Tiger & Bunny, Kotetsu attempts to use an ultrasonic grenade to defeat Jake's super hearing. However, it is just a ruse to overcome Jake's true power, mind reading, and the "ultrasonic" grenade is really a flashbang.
- Naruto: Naruto once beat Kiba by accidentally farting into Kiba's super-sensitive nose, when poor Kiba had his smell sense enhanced with chakra. It has since become a Running Gag; any time Naruto farts, Kiba is somewhere within range.
- Sonic X: As a bat, Rouge has sensitive ears, and can therefore be disabled by loud, high-pitched noises.
- In the Cyborg 009 2001 series, this happens twice to Francoise/003:
- In the flashbacks, 003 was thrown into the middle of a battlefield right after being turned into a 00-Cyborg, freaking out over the excessive amount of noise from the weapons firing at her thanks to her enhanced hearing, and barely understanding what was going on. 002/Jet had to pull her out of the battlefield and explain what happened.
- The Black Ghost group once used a special sound bomb to mess with her Super Senses during an underwater combat. It briefly worked.
- In Dragon Ball Goku nearly passes out when he got a whiff of Bacterian, a fighter that has never taken a bath in his life and causes people with normal sense of smell to cover their nose and cry in disgust. Poor Goku even gets to lampshade the trope, saying his nose is so sensitive that he can't stand even a bit of Bacterian's stench.
- In Berserk, when Guts decides to kill a giant sea god thing by hacking through its body to its heart, the heart is so huge that the sheer loudness of the heartbeat alone nearly kills him. He does manage to slay it, but afterward he is deaf, blind, and completely numb from head to toe, and has to be rescued before the sea god sinks beneath the waves. Fortunately, he recovers his senses with some rest.
- Marvel Comics:
- Dazzler had an attack of multicolored, bright, and strobing lights that would disorient opponents — even those without specialized eyesight.
- Wolverine has super-sensitive hearing, so many villains like to use sonic attacks against him.
- Fabian Cortez used this on Psylocke, amplifying her telepathic powers while she was on Genosha, an island full of mutant haters. It backfired in the end but the whole experience was very traumatic for her.
- Taken Up to 11 by Dark Phoenix. To punish Mastermind for the hubris of trying to control her, she briefly granted him omniscience.
- Mister Sensitive from X-Statix could be defeated by stripping away his special suit. Even a fine mist felt like thousands of needles.
- Daredevil: usually, this is how villains defeat the titular character due to his super senses.
- Domenic of ClanDestine is prone to this, to the point where he sleeps in a sensory deprivation chamber. At one point he tastes chocolate and immediately passes out.
- During a prison riot in Sillage, one of the aliens kills his enemy by injecting him with his hormones. It is a part of a mating ritual for his species, but the sensation is too overwhelming for any other creature — he basically orgasms him to death.
- Superman has occasionally been hurt by extremely loud noises. His Nigh-Invulnerability and his super hearing apparently cancel each other out.
- John in With Strings Attached is given extremely sharp hearing, which presents a problem for him whenever he's in a city; even the nearly deserted Ta'akan makes it impossible for him to sleep. Luckily he learns to tune it so he doesn't get overwhelmed.
- Attempted on John during the ambush at Hermit's Rock in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World after the attempt to put him to sleep failed. The two guys attacking him hit him with a sonic stunner. While this is painful and disabling, a cry of anguish from George in the forest nearby rouses him to stagger between the trees, and the stunner is thus blocked.
- Quite likely, having his water field up when they zapped him helped blunt some of the stunner's effects as well.
- After Noa in Hard Being Pure fully mutates, her sight becomes so good that she can see individual bacteria, along with otherwise imperceptible irregularities in nearly everything around her. It's to the point that she can't open her eyes for more than a second, otherwise she gets too much information and becomes unresponsive.
Film - Animation
- This is a tactic taught in dragon training on How to Train Your Dragon. Making loud noises disorients dragons long enough for the fighter to strike or head for cover.
Film - Live Action
- Yellowbeard: Harvey "Blind" Pew has incredibly sensitive hearing, so Gilbert blows on a trumpet to disorient him.
- Happens briefly to Riddick in Pitch Black, when another survivor accidentally shines a flashlight in his super-sensitive eyes.
- In Tremors, Graboids are super sensitive to sound. This is exploited several times throughout the films and the tv series.
- In Daredevil, the hero is incapacitated by loud noises briefly a few times.
- In Man of Steel, Clark Kent suffered from his Super Senses growing up and had to train to focus them. Superman takes advantage of the fact that General Zod and his followers have not had time to train their senses by damaging the helmets they use to filter light and sound. Zod is initially overwhelmed, but manages to adapt fairly quickly thanks to his military training and sheer force of will.
- Pacific Rim: single-highhandedly piloting Jaegers causes this, resulting in nosebleeds. For this reason Jaegers are mostly piloted by at least 2 people.
- In Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man uses goggles as part of his costume to focus his enhanced senses, which would otherwise prove distracting while he is out crimefighting.
- Isaac Asimov's novel Second Foundation. A Mind Static device is used to "blind" Second Foundationers with psychic abilities (the "sixth sense").
- At full power, the device would actually create a "feedback" effect hurting those with Psychic Powers.
- In the Discworld novels, Angua the Night Watch patrolman has a supernaturally keen sense of smell. One villain comes up with the clever idea of using peppermint bombs to overwhelm her ability to pick up clues that way. This eventually becomes common practice among the more intelligent parts of Ankh-Morpork's underworld.
- Another Discworld example is Thief of Time: The Auditors of Reality, when they assume human form, are so overwhelmed by their senses that Susan takes them down with chocolate.
- In Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn novels, burning tin dramatically increases your senses, so one tactic to use against a Tin Eye (people who can only tin) or Mistborn (people who can burn all metals) burning tin is to use bright lights or loud noises. Even though the person can instantly shut down the burn it still takes a second for them to recover from the shock.
- In The Burning Realm, the Deathlings are victims of a curse-born plague that renders their senses so keen they're almost unbearable. They isolate themselves in a silent, mist-shrouded valley to ensure the disease will not spread, and drape themselves in the lightest and loosest of clothing to minimize the pain of being touched.
- Frequently, in detective stories, a camera flash is used to blinding effect.
- Molly of The Dresden Files casts a spell that creates bright lights, multi-colored and flashing. Harry calls it the One-Woman Rave.
- Uplift series: Acceptors, being designed as living Everything Sensors, are somewhat prone to this.
- Tom Clancy's Debt Of Honor features a device that makes a burst of light that's so bright it causes temporary paralysis. Not mere incapacitation from blindness, but sensory overload so complete the subjects are entirely overwhelmed.
- In Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox, Holly incapacitates a villain by healing his sense of smell (which he'd been born without due to a congenital defect) - in the middle of a Tunesian tannery, which smells horrible even at the BEST of times. Since he'd never smelled anything before, the stench caused a complete sensory overload, knocking him out and inflicting some serious mental trauma in the process.
- Labyrinths of Echo has Mundane Utility for this. The cuisine of Kuman Khalifate is all sweet — they put honey even in soups and the Master Scenter swears Kuman people themselves smell of honey from such a diet. And they have a dish named "The Summit of Sweetness". It's so sweet that it's not perceived as such, since the eater's taste buds are effectively "blinded" to sweet taste — at least until it's washed away.
- Jedi in Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe novels can choose to make any or every sense keener the better to hear near-inaudible noises, see in the dark, identify chemicals by scent, etc. Virtually every time they do so, though, they're half-deafened by someone murmuring quietly to them, a dim light, etc. and have to rapidly ramp their senses back down to normal.
- In the novel Dark Lord, which takes place just after Epsiode 3 when the Jedi are being hunted down by clones, a group of rogue clones ignores Order 66 and uses EMP grenades to disable their fellow clones that were attempting to ambush the Jedi. As the grenades short out their helmets, that group of clones is somewhat unable to successfully conduct their ambush. This isn't really shown anywhere else as a solution to clones or stormtroopers however.
- In Tales of Kolmar, Marik of Gundar dons an Invisibility Cloak which also lets him see in the dark. However this also makes any source of light piercing and painful; he likens the full moon to being stabbed in the eye, and is in agony when he suddenly comes upon a lit torch.
- In The Fall of the House of Usher, one reason why Roderick and Madeline remain in isolation is because their senses have become so acute due to hereditary illness that going out among other people would be overwhelmingly loud/bright/painful.
Live Action TV
- In Smallville, Clark Kent was overwhelmed when his super hearing first manifested. Loud noises consistently cause him discomfort, and he loses control of his super hearing once under great emotional trauma when he thought Chloe died. Interestingly, the noise track used in that occasion was similar to the one in Superman Returns.
- On Babylon 5, an unintentional version of this happens to latent telepaths when their powers "blossom", usually around puberty. Their formerly dormant powers become very active, and since they have no practice filtering the cacophony, they hear every thought of every around them. If this happens in a crowded area, such as at a marketplace, their clairaudience is "deafening" like a rocket engine.
- In the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cruise Ship to the Stars", the powerful Sabrina is defeated when Buck and friends use a type of sonic emitter on her, which causes her to change back to Alison.
- When the young cast of Space Cases switch species, human Harlan gets Andromedan Radu's super hearing... and goes crazy from the agonizing physical pain caused by "hearing everything," with that everything "magnified about a million times." It takes Andromedans years of practice to filter out all this noise and focus only on what they want to listen to.
- Doctor Who:
- An interesting case on - Vincent van Gogh sees the world with far more vibrancy than everyone else. However, this perpetual sensory overload is a major cause of his depression and eventual suicide.
- The Sensorites in "The Sensorites" have these as a side effect of their psychic powers and generally feeble physiology. Their hearing is particularly prone to this, and they experience physical pain when people shout at them or clap loudly. Bright lights, flashing lights and darkness are also physically painful to them.
- Happens occasionally on The Sentinel, like when Jim was driven to distraction by the pain of a minor wound on his hand because of his super-touch sense.
- In a two-part episode, an evil Sentinel finds an ancient South American temple used by tribal Sentinels to boost their powers Up to 11 by taking a bath (It Makes Sense in Context). Unfortunately, she ends up taking one too many baths, and the overstimulation causes her brain to burn out. They cart her away as a vegetable.
- In one episode, Blair teaches Jim how to control his pain sensation, which Jim does fairly well on the first try.
- Rachel is prone to this in Alphas. Her ability to drastically increase one sense at the cost of diminishing the others kicks in unexpectedly, causing her to avoid sex, keep things obsessively clean, and insist on preparing food herself so she'll have control over everything that's gone into it. The Can't Have Sex, Ever element caused her significant angst, but she finally did get over it with a sympathetic boyfriend - the implication was that it was less a case of physical inability to bear the sensations than a fear of letting herself become so utterly helpless with someone that she didn't trust absolutely.
- A Gadgeteer Genius Alpha weaponized this trope by macgyvering a strobing and sonic overload device from office electronics to escape from custody. Fortunately Rachel reacted quickly enough to funnel her sight and hearing into taste, leaving her well enough to immediately start tracking her.
- In an episode of Heroes, Mohinder tortures Sylar by holding a tuning fork to his ear, oversensitising his Super Hearing.
- The person he stole his Super Hearing from, a mechanic named Dale, ran into this as well, having to blare music at severely loud levels to drown out the regular noises of her day.
- In one episode of The Adventures of Superboy, Lex Luthor develops a device which overloads Superboy's super-hearing.
- In the Angel episode "To Shanshu in L.A.", Wolfram & Hart raise a demon who inflicts Cordelia with a spell that increases her empathic powers. Instead of just receiving the "messages" from the Powers That Be, Cordelia feels the suffering of everyone which overwhelms her and drives her into madness and catatonia.
- On Flashpoint the Strategic Response Unit regularly use flashbangs to incapacitate suspects. On some occasions they will also use a special riot shield with flashing strobe lights and speakers emitting loud high frequency noise.
- In the Hulk/Daredevil TV movie Trial of the Incredible Hulk, the Kingpin, despite being unaware of Daredevil's heightened senses, chances on the idea of using light and sound to disorient him; it works much better than expected.
- Whenua manages to save Nuju and himself from a mutant Ussal Crab by spinning his Earthshock Drills fast enough to make a deafening hum to stun the crab, since it had enhanced hearing.
- Onua managed to subdue a Subterranean Worm by making a painful sound that was effective due to its enhanced hearing.
- Dalu's weapons, the Chargers, are designed to increase the senses of their targets to the point where they simply give up... or experience a full mental breakdown, as they peer into worlds not meant for any being to see.
- The 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons supplement The Complete Thief's Handbook recommends using aniseed or dog pepper to throw off dogs that track by scent.
- One issue of Adventurer's Club (an early house organ published by Hero Games) featured a villain with hypersenses. He became a villain because it was the only way he could pay for his sensory deprivation chamber, and without it he would have gone insane.
- In Vampire: The Masquerade, the first trait of Auspex gives you awesome super senses... unless you get a light shined on you, or if a loud noise goes off. Then it just hurts.
- Hypersensitive senses, particularly pain, are among the unpleasant symptoms that a simsense addict will have to cope with, if they try to break the habit.
- The Chaos spell overloaded the victim's senses with a cloud of sensations, including blinding sights, loud sounds, fierce odors and tickling. This caused major distraction and severe penalties to all of the victim's actions.
- Could easily happen to someone who uses a defective simsense chip (which simulates a pre-recorded sensory experience), or one with it's safety constraints modded off, flooding the user with dangerous levels of sensory input.
- Happens when one is "brainfried" from a matrix attack.
- Used by devotees of Slaanesh in Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
- 40K's Noise Marines use Doomsirens and Dirge Casters to completely overwhelm the target's senses via Ear Rape.
- Slaaneshi cultists themselves, what with using Sensory Overload as a form of worship, are more or less immune to it (the aforementioned Noise Marines use hot pink and jet black on their armor as it's one of the few color combinations to still catch their eye). Using it to torture them is of course pointless, so in Warhammer one Sigmarite came up with a potion that completely deadens them to sensation, breaking them far more efficiently than any beating.
- Two examples in the Legacy of Kain series:
- In Defiance, Raziel battles his last remaining vampire brother, the bat-like Turel, by striking gongs to deafen and stun him.
- In Soul Reaver, Raziel visits the Silenced Cathedral, a vast building housing a steam-powered sonic weapon that the humans intended to use to wipe out the vampires.
- In Pokémon, the move Extrasensory inflicts damage on the target by forcing them to experience a sensation they didn't have before.
- In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, HK-47, an assassination droid, recommends sensory overload as one of the ways to kill a Jedi warrior, who are able to deflect blaster bolts and strike with extreme accuracy when their mind is focused.
- Magick Chicks: As an esper, Faith's senses are naturally attuned to perceive that which can't be detected by the natural senses. Her psychic acuity is such, that she could still tell something was off, while under the effects of Cerise's amnesia spell. However, this ability also acts as a double-edged sword, such as when she was psychically assaulted by an indirect attack from Hecate, which hadn't been intended for her. Regardless, Faith not only sensed it, it caused her to have seizures and briefly pass out. When she regained consciousness, she'd been left physically weakened and temporarily without her powers. While she didn't know who'd been responsible for the attack, she could sense it'd been the work of something ancient, dark, and powerful.
- In Widdershins, O'Malley's Aura Vision is painfully overstimulated by seeing large numbers of people or spirits. However, in the "Green-Eyed Monster" arc, the Sight gets temporarily transferred to Thackery, and Mal gets equally frustrated by not seeing spirits or auras everywhere, to say nothing of how weird he finds ordinary color vision to be.
- Girl Genius hints at this rather cleverly when heroine Agatha loses the locket that has been keeping her Spark (and emotions) suppressed, with the color scheme going from a muted near black and white to garish full-color gradients, and then finally setting into a more balanced palette. The novelization, lacking pictures, makes this transition more explicit.
- PS238 has a child with the power of noticing patterns; it's so strong that he actually falls under Prescience Is Predictable, able to figure out what has and will happen with uncanny accuracy. While he can interact with the other students for short periods, he spends most of his time studying in a private room with blank walls to keep from being overwhelmed.
- The Whateley Universe has a couple examples, ranging from flashbangs grenades, to a massive sonic emitter on Halloween night that sent afflicted folks - many with super hearing - into various types of seizure.
- SCP-1364 suffers from this to a huge extent, everything hurts it, bright lights, loud noises, water, being touched, everything, and yet it still just wants a hug.
- Twitch Plays Pokémon interprets the game's crash at Lavender Town as Red breaking down and fainting after hearing more voices than he was used to and subsequently panicking. Later on he more or less refused to leave the Pokémon Center for a while, probably to try and get his bearings again.
- The super-smelling Shirshu from Avatar: The Last Airbender is completely blinded when several liters of perfume are spilled onto the floor beneath him. Lashing out blindly with his poison tongue, he manages to hit Zuko, and then his own mistress.
- In the series based on Disney's Hercules, a monster steals the heroic traits of all the heroes around. Hercules has a flash of inspiration and asks one who preciously had super vision what the worst part about it is; "Bright lights" is the answer and, indeed, one of the new Achilles Heels that the monster stole in the process.
- Superman: The Animated Series
- One of Darkseid's earliest attempts to defeat Superman included high-tech tanks that amongst other weaponry used high-pitched focused sound to great effect against Superman's super-hearing. Blood could be seen pouring out of Superman's ears in the aftermath.
- In the Grand Finale, Darkseid also uses the Agony Matrix on Superman, which overloads the pain sensors of his body. As in, all of them, at once. It bypasses all natural defenses (since it doesn't actually damage the body) and would have killed any lesser being simply by shock.
- Transformers: Generation 1 has Jazz's sonic overload attack and Reflector's disorienting lights.
- In one episode of SpongeBob SquarePants when Patrick finally gets a nose, he takes his new sense of smell too far when he (ironically) starts a crusade against everything smell, to the point of disrupting the lives of SpongeBob and the others. To get him to stop, SpongeBob and the others subject his nose to a concentration of stink so powerful that it destroys his nose.
- In World War II, after a destroyer dropped a pattern of depth charges, its sonar was deaf for several moments, giving a crucial window of escape to a fleeing submarine. For this reason, Allied warships also used other weapons systems which used rockets or mortars to lob volleys of projectiles into the water, effectively being anti-submarine artillery.
- Flashbang grenades are designed specifically to cause sensory overload to both hearing and vision, incapacitating a target.
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound is also a common symptom accompanying migraine headaches.
- Autistic people often have rather sensitive hearing and sight, leading to this issue. Sudden loud noises are often a surefire way to trigger an autistic meltdown instantaneously. Lighting that's too intense can also overwhelm some autistic people rather swiftly as well.
- Some people insist that SWAT teams and special forces units on hostage recovery missions use, basically, high-powered laser pointers to temporarily blind and disorient the hostage takers. After all, shooting a hostage taker may still give him time to kill the hostage, but blinding him may have a higher chance of success to both recover the hostage and take the bad guy alive. There are ethical issues to consider, such as the fact that a laser at too high a power can permanently blind someone.
- Pretty much the point of a Macross Missile Massacre or a human wave attack. If you throw more missiles/men at a target than it can handle at once, some will get through.
- There is, of course, the infamous defense mechanism of skunks, which overwhelms the noses of almost every creature nearby and whose stench only gets stronger when washed. The only natural predators of skunks are a few species of birds of prey, who have little to no sense of smell.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights, which overload vision to the point of causing seizures. Weaponized on tactical lights with strobe mode.
- Dazzlers are a form of optical jammers used by a number of armies which operate by blasting incoming missiles with laser light in order to confuse the on-board sensors, rather than shooting it down with expensive anti-missile munitions.