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Sensory Overload
One strategy for disabling someone without permanently incapacitating them is to debilitate them by overloading their senses. In some cases, an intensely bright light or loud noise is just as effective as a Tap on the Head, and can allow easy capture. If that fails, it's another form of Look Behind You, without having to actually talk to the opponent.

This is a common tactic against those with Super Senses because it turns a strength into a weakness. Technology or magic may grant Badass Normals super-human senses that can be exploited this way. Used against a machine, this often results in Readings Are Off the Scale. In a Video Game, this is likely to be represented as an Interface Screw of some sort.

See also Poke in the Third Eye and First Time Feeling. Compare Sense Loss Sadness.


Examples:

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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.
  • Several times in Fullmetal Alchemist, most notably using ammonia from dynamite to knock out two chimćra.
  • 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 Pokemon. 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 farting into Kiba's super-sensitive nose. 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 Cyborg009 2001 series, black Ghost once used a special sound bomb to mess with Francoise/003's Super Senses during an underwater combat.
  • 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.

     Comic Books  

  • Marvel Comics:
    • Dazzler had an attack of multicolored, bright, and strobing lights that would disorient opponents — even those without specialized eyesight.
    • X-Men:
      • 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 Eleven 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.

     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.

     Literature  

  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation 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.
    • Earlier, Harry's "Wizard Sight" sense was overwhelmed when he caught a glimpse of the Naagloshii with it. He threw up, staggered to a friend's house, asked for a quiet dark room, and whimpered in there for about an hour. Then got back to work.
  • 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.

     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 Eleven 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

     Multiple Media  

     Tabletop Games  

  • 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.
  • Shadowrun
    • 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 40K. 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.

     Video Games  

  • 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 don't have. For example: forcing a Pokémon without a nose, like Magnezone, to experience the sense of smell.

     Web Comic 

  • 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.

     Web Original  

  • 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.

     Western Animation  

  • 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.

     Real Life  

  • 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.


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