Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud
Noise sensitivity can be likened to nails on a blackboard. The constant buzz and whir of music, technology, the buzzing of Facebook notifications, ringing phones and loud conversations can be overwhelming. This sensitivity to noise is known as hyperacusis, a condition that arises from a problem in the way the brain processes noise.
When a sufferer comes to dread social settings due to the noise, it can become a mental health trigger. Sufferers may feel trapped with no escape, want some place quiet or feel disoriented, as though he or she can hear every noise or conversation in a room. The effect is similar to being in an echo chamber.
Causes of Noise Sensitivity
Hearing loss does not necessarily reduce sensory overload. The way in which the brain processes the sound does not mean that a person with hyperacusis, or sensitivity to sound in general, has better hearing. It's just that he or she is more sensitive to certain sounds: paper rustling, conversations, heating and air system sounds, etc.
Some causes of sensory overload include:
- brain injury
- airbag deployment
- ear damage
- Neurological conditions such as migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome and posttraumatic stress disorder can also be associated with increased sensitivity to noise.
Tips to Reduce Noise Sensitivity
- Incorporate some white noise into your surroundings - run a fan, invest in a white noise machine, open a window or install a white noise app on your cell phone.
- Wear noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds.
- Try positioning yourself in another area of the room.
- If you are wearing a hoodie, putting the hood up can lessen the stimulation.
- Using a tactile tool, such as rubbing a smooth stone can provide enough of a distraction to facilitate calming (Using Objects to Reduce Anxiety).
- Use post-it notes to cover sensors on auto-flushing toilets or automatic hand driers.
- Visiting during non-peak times and seeking seating on the perimeter can help to reduce exposure to noise.
What do you do when the world becomes too loud? We'd love to hear what has worked for you.
Kipp, P. (2013, December 27). Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/12/when-the-world-is-too-loud-noise-sensitivity
Author: Paulissa Kipp
Thanks so much for this article. I have always been scared of loud music and the drums and stuff. It just makes me so stressed out and wants to cry or scream. It just feels like being drowned underwater...but thanks for the solutions. The ear plug solution works great
I buy earplugs in bulk - much cheaper that way - and wear them night and day. I use paper, plastic or melamine crockery (bliss! No awful clatter of cutlery on plates) and wooden or plastic spoons. The computer sound is permanently muted, and I watch tv with earplugs in and headphones over the top (so I can hear my tv but not the neighbour's). The vacuum has been replaced with wooden floors that I clean with a broom. The microwave that shrieked whenever I pressed anything is in the shed, sans plug. I leave the batteries out of the doorbell when I'm not expecting anyone and the phone switched off in a drawer. All of the above helps, but if some dear soul bangs on my front door with a fist I am tempted to do murder, and I have to seal myself in the bedroom while the washing machine does its impersonation of a Jumbo jet taking off.
It's not easy to find ways of coping, but never let anyone make you feel that you 'shouldn't' be like this. I was born like it. I'm not being awkward or dramatic. It's a disability, and therefore my responsibility to find some way of living with it. But dear God, yes, sometimes you just want to take a gun and shoot everything that makes a noise :)
I work in an environment where he phone is constantly ringing, people are always talking. When I able to escape from my work area I retreat to a quite area and just sit. I also am the same when I get home. I want no sound, no phone absolutely nothing. I avoid grocery store during certain hours , I actually avoid as much as possible. My husband sleeps with the t.v. on . I have to turn the volume down so low so I can't hear it . i'd prefer he would just turn it off. I don't like the flashing & flickering of lights going through my eyelids at night. I have become very mouth around noisy people, I'm at the point of talking to my supervisor regarding the level of noise in my area or I going to have to find something less overloading my senses. I work for a nursing facility , so you can imagine what I hear all day.
I thought I was the only one. People don’t take us seriously. I wear earplugs too.
We are so many I cried when I found that I have this kind of stuff. Music really helps me when going outside, to school, walking, crowded places and bus earphones is my savior. I hate when people talking when sleep time it really triggers me. I hope I don't have this, ever since I was kid I have noise sensitivity, many people misunderstood me if I have anger problems. Quiet place is my dream to live.
You nailed it! I thought it was just me. I find it extremely annoying when my roommate is talking & laughing while I’m trying to sleep at night. Plus the walls in my house are paper thin (Canadian poor construction of course). What I hate most is repeatedly explaining to ppl to respect quiet hours. A quiet place is indeed my dream.
I find that its our television that agitates me the most if my husband has got it on and I'm in the kitchen with no door to shut the noise out. Last week I went upstairs with my crochet and could hear the birds which was calming but I can't always get away from it. I'm thinking of getting some earplugs and maybe listening to music through some headphones when I'm in the kitchen. I suffer from anxiety and sleep problems often but sometimes its more heightened than other times and I'm more intolerant. I'm downstairs now as my husband is snoring and twitching in bed and I can't sleep. I crave peace and tranquility. At the moment all I can hear is the clock ticking and thats fine with me!
PS To all you out there suffering from noise hypersensitivity, I find that the repetitive movement of crochet or knitting really helps block everything out and calm my mind. Has anyone else found the same to be helpful?
I can't listen to the telly above level 1 can't watch any load films or any action films or any programme which is exciting as it makes my anxiety worse very difficult in a world full of noise
I have same issue only in my apartment when fellow tenants "slam" the outdoor shut. on several occasions contacted management with no response or resolution. I don't want to look like complainer, what can I do. Also, just moved here, If I knew this, would have never signed the lease...What can I do? Thank you!!!!
Try using WD40 or maybe attach a piece of fabric or something to slow the door down so it doesn’t make such a loud slamming sound.
The sound of wind when my husband has the car window down, the sound loud talking in the office , a radio up too loud, too many people talking at the same time, the sound of someone coughing non stop, people laughing too loud or non stop, the tv being on when someone is talking at the same time. even a train that honks for too long...lol Not sure why but noise drives me crazy and always has
Yeah office talking and laughing drives me mad. Have you tried Vibes earplugs on amazon pretty cheap and block out sone of the annoying sounds ?
I just discovered this thread and it is a god-send to learn that I am not the only one bothered by loud talking, a loud TV or stereo, yapping dogs, slamming doors, etc.
There have been times that I could just jump in front of the subway because it would mean that I would no longer feel jittery from loud music coming from a colleague's cubicle. I'm not normally anxious and am not at all depressed or suffering from PSTD or anything else like that, so thought I must just be crazy (not to mention annoying to any friends and family who I ask to turn down the noise or lower the volume on their talking.
I guess misery really does enjoy company, as the expression goes, as I feel better that I am not the only one with this problem (and that I don't have the worst case of it). My heart goes out to everyone who has posted here. I do hope that one day we can get the people who don't understand this terrible ailment to understand it.
BTW: in my case the combo of ear plugs and noise cancelling headphones don't help as they muffle everything except the higher pitched sounds, and those are what bother me the most.
I'm so glad I found this thread. I, too, have a high sensitivity to sound. I have anxiety as well as tmj and just found out that noise sensitivity is related to both of these issues. I thought it was people being disrespectful when they slammed doors, played loud music, etc. but that didn't explain why I can't tolerate the background music at shopping malls, stores, restaurants, etc. Noise is everywhere and it's difficult to get away from it. I started thinking of why people don't like silence anymore. I like to read and you can't even go to the library and find it quiet there anymore so I do think society has something to do with a lot of it but, if you have anxiety like I do, I believe it aggravates the condition. I've used earplugs but suffered from ear infections so am afraid to keep using them. I've resorted to using a fan which does help a lot. I don't like earphones with music or sound effects because they only contribute to the problem. I've read about people on this thread using noise cancelling headphones so tomorrow I'm going to go to the store and get them and, hopefully, it will help me sleep better at night. Thank you for this forum and for the posters with all their advice. It's nice to know I'm not alone, and I've gotten a lot of great ideas to help me with this issue.
I have anxiety and TMJ as well. I sometimes use heat packs or try deep breathing to relax my jaw and sometimes that helps too.
After reading this I thought I was the only one sensitive to noises. I have always hated loud bangs since very little, don't know why, I wear wireless headphones now which are quite effective. I would love noise cancellation ones but they're nearly £2-300 quite expensive. I live in a small estate in a sort of village where there seem to be an increase in families with kids. They're not generally mean but during the summer like now, they stay out until 10pm and play out like I used too, although my parents never allowed me or my sister out after 9pm. I think parents are too lean now and not strict. They have no control and I am quite embarrassed by how many parents moan about their kids and they shouldn't have had them in the first place. I live alone and sometimes house sit for family which is good, yet noise at my dads where I house sit is traffic noise. Theyre in a terraced house with a main road where buses, often lorries and the stupid boy racer cars and motorbikes that love nothing more than to rev their annoying exhausts. I cringe and wish I could shut out traffic sounds even when I go out shopping. I don't know why it makes me so anxious. I use the back bedroom upstairs to get some peace but back at home the kids are a pain. I cant afford to move yet and I just prefer winter time as less people seem to be out, only then fireworks on november 5th start and drive me on edge. I like going out but honestly, I sometimes wish I didn't have too as I just can't stand noises!! Hope others can find some help my doctors think it is just anxiety. I hate bubble gum popping on buses sometimes usually by horrible teenagers during the school holidays. urghhh.
Sound cancel headphones - If your willing to look at cheaper end of market, they only really work for lower frequency sounds i.e. bass and rumbling etc, but they do help a little. Have a look on web for "Super EQ" Active Noise Cancelling headphones, I actually got my set for twenty pounds. I know some ear defenders help too. Hope this helps.
I enjoy science videos but can't tolerate the background noise. All videos have so called music and this negates from my educational growth and fulfillment.
Try Crash Course on YouTube. They usually don't have music except for their title sequence, which has no affect on the material, though there are sound effects.
I'm so with you on that. I so wish that background music was added as a separate channel so we could enable/disable it much in the same way we do with subtitles.
May I ask, am I the only weirdo that discreetly hides to the side to enable some booming blabbermouth on a hands free phone to walk past and be on their way, as far as possible away?
Im suffering from depression. I use to feel too loud sound scare me & i feel the world against me. Since the world too loud to me.
Even a door loud knock scare me, no i feel so angry for no reason.
I gradually move the loud sound to music. Music of loud, beats, Nightcore types of song. They help to keep my mood down.
Every Night before i go to bed, i put on loud music on my headphones. & Before Work i do the same.
I do the same thing. If it's a mixture of small noises or bunch of little noises I like to put headphones in and play loud music so that why I can't hear them. It's nice to know that there's someone like me. :D
In 2005 I had a brain stem stroke and since then I cannot tolerate loud noises. My brain just cannot process all that noise and that is what it is to me, just "noise." If there are too many babies crying in the store or too much noise in general, I get agitated and my brain shuts down. Recently my church installed a new sound system in preparation for live streaming and the praise and worship music was so loud I couldn't stand it. I finally sat down and put my fingers in my ears. I could feel myself losing it. I ended up leaving service and haven't gone back. As of today, I have been told that the music is still too loud and even a gentleman with hearing aides has to turn them off!!! That's a problem folks! No response from the pastor and I have told him about this issue I have. I am looking into ear plugs so I can help squash the over-powering noise and return to church. I have also voiced my concern over the decibel level and the effect on the young children in church.
Oh Susan, I understand! I am seriously considering leaving a church that I love and have attended for eight years and all because the music and the booming bass are so loud it has triggered panic attacks in me where my heart races and I am short of breath. It got bad when a new technician was hired this past year. I’ve reached out to him and he was very understanding but said they test the decibel levels all the time and find they are not harmful. Ok, I appreciated his thoughtful response but am afraid I may have to return to my former church where the whole atmosphere is more calm and peaceful and I don’t feel like I’m at a rock concert on Sunday morning where all I want to do is worship the Lord.
I can relate. The new lighting bothers me in addition to the sound. I purchased an online concert and couldn't handle the sound and lights.
We have someone that wears noise canceling headphones while the music is on perhaps you can get some earplugs like that to help you cope with the sound. Mine is more to voices that I need to get away from the sound. Taking my hear aids out helps some but I may need to get ear canceling plugs in the future.
I am so relieved to read all these comments from so many fellow sufferers of this hearing condition. I'm 68, living in Los Angeles, one of worlds noisiest cities, and I have been living with worsening hyperacusis for the past two decades, at least. I sympathize with everyone on here and value all your advice.
I have ADHD and migraines, and noise- especially "background" or "white" noise - is extremely distracting to me when I'm having a migraine or when my adhd meds aren't working.
Fans in particular can ruin a night of sleep for me, and are very distracting. Conversations 20 feet away about a slightly interesting thing are distracting as well.
I have to turn music down or off while driving when I get close to my destination or when traffic is heavy.
Hi... I'd just like to say, whenever the world seems to get so much louder, which is very very often, I can hear people even whispering from a bit of a distance or around where I live, I can hear the cupboards being closed or the sizzle of a pan from another room and it gets me all built up inside, even if someone scolds me or raises their voice evn if it's not meant to be for me I can't stand it, usually if i get to or when I'm allowed to I have to always put earphones on and listen to music just to seclude myself from the outside noise just so I can live a little more peacefully, I know it's not the best solution but it really helps me keep my world in a more quiet cove
You all are my kindred spirits! I’ve had noise sensitivity since birth. I’ve always felt like an oddball. I don’t know anyone personally who feels as I do. I think I’m one of these Highly Sensitive People. I buy foam earplugs in bulk and use when I vacuum, sometimes when I sleep, or when there is more outside noise than usual. Fireworks at July 4 and New Year’s are the worst. I try to find a town to visit where fireworks use is limited or banned. I can understand people using fireworks on these two holidays but the rude people in the community where I live set them off at random other times of the year. People who blast their vehicle audio systems (boom boom boom) are the rudest of the rude. Being stuck at a traffic light with these jerks is hellish. I’m looking for a quiet place to retire.
I hear you...especially the sub woofer crowd. Do not choose Las Vegas, NV to retire if you want peace and quiet.
I truely wish lawnomowers, leafblowers, and weed wackers did not exist
Oh my goodness, I know. I know I'm not the original author of this piece, but I completely agree Ben.