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Our Mental Health Blogs

Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud

Noise sensitivity can be a mental health trigger, but there are things you can do to lessen noise sensitivity (hyperacusis). Get tips here.
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
  • epilepsy
  • ear damage
  • TMJ
  • 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.

You can also connect with Paulissa Kipp on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and her website, Paulissakippisms.

156 thoughts on “Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud”

  1. For me it’s comes and goes. Which sounds like maybe it’s not the same. It’s like all of the sudden the radio is blaring an i can hear everyone else’s conversation except the person talking to me. My chest gets tight and I have to leave the area. Is this same for anyone els?

  2. Wow this makes me feel a tiny bit better knowing I am not just being over dramatic and it does actually have a name! I also can NOT stand the screaming children in the shopping malls/supermarkets anywhere and everywhere. It make my heart instantly race and my anger levels go from 0 to 100 as soon as I hear it. I also share an office with 3 others and trying to get work done when you are extremely busy is near impossible. I am just so happy I am not the only one out there lol

  3. Loud noises have always bothered me; however, now that I am a senior citizen, I have

    Loud noises have always bothered me; however, now that I am a senior citizen, I absolutely cannot tolerate noise. So, I avoid large stores, especially since most modern parents make no effort to control their children. Whenever I walk into a store or restaurant and hear a child/children crying/screaming, I turn around and walk out. I absolutely cannot stand it. It hurts my ears and makes me seek a quiet area. Why can people not realize that no one wants to hear their screaming child? And that it actually makes some people sick!!

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I hate screaming high pitch kids, loud noise bang etc. it’s really irritates me & click my brain to get crazy. Have a new neighbor and they are always in the backyard playing kid pool & scremaig squealing, the worst part is the parents re doing the same. And I can’t complaint about the disturbing the peace because it’s a daytime.

  4. I cannot believe there is a name for this! I have found silicone/wax earplugs and noise cancelling headphones work WONDERS. My stress level/anxiety IMMEDIATELY subsides when I use these. I cannot believe that I have come across this blog! Lol. I am so excited. So much so that I just jumped up and ran to tell my husband. 🙂 So nice to know that I am not alone! Actually, the ABSOLUTE BEST GIFT I HAVE EVER RECEIVED was from my husband and it was the noise cancelling headphones!! Since then, however, I have found the silicone ear plugs (the mold to your ear and create a seal OR you can just lightly put them in your ear and it muffles the loud sounds but still allows you to hear what others are saying.

  5. I work in a hospital . You would think hospitals were quiet so the sick could rest… Well not at all! Between constant bells and now the new “safety alert” that goes off on my phone constantly. There is no way to get away from the noise as these bells and alerts are piped into the medication, nutrition and supply rooms. Not to mention they are loud as well. Of course there are people talking over one another because it’s so loud! Then there is the “global talkers” who want everyone to hear what they are saying. I’m an RN and everyday I go to work with the optimism that I will give great care and it will be a great day. The noise takes away all that including my last nerve! I feel irritated by everything and wonder why can’t someone please instill some rules about being quiet! These would be mine iif I were in charge. Don’t speak to anyone unless your less than 3 feet away. Turn down all bells and ringers and be considerate. If I say anything people just don’t get it, so I keep quiet but am exploding inside. It is getting to the point that I may have to leave nursing altogether. Sad.

    1. Oh my how awful. My problem is with social settings and I feel that I’m going to finish up with no social life. Once a noise affects me I go straight to an overbearing headache and I can’t think of anything else. It makes me bad tempered and hostile. I find it hard to believe that other people aren’t hearing the way I do. I have tried to use my breathing to stop myself over reacting but all I want to do is leave. I no longer look forward to get togethers. My husband is deaf and needs the television on load which means I’m in a bad place when I’m at home aswell. I will try rubbing a smooth stone. A big problem aswell is that I don’t like the feeling of anything in my ears either. I used to be fine so I think it has something to do with getting older but it’s no joke!

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