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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.

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

  1. I’m so glad I’m not crazy. I have always been sensitive to noise and lights! Especially at night or when everything is quiet. I do not know why but I deal with this at least once or twice a week. It’s been happening since i was a child. I hate it and people look at me crazy when i try to explain it to them.

  2. I thought I was just easily irritated, so I am glad to read this and see that others feel the same. Like others, loud screams and squeals from children set me on edge. It’s like I can feel it moving down my spine. And I love kids and all, but I can do without that. Even my coworkers background chatter drives me nuts. I am sitting at my desk, wearing ear plugs, as I type this.

    I do have epilepsy, although well-controlled with medication. I am curious to know if the above reference are the noises that TRIGGER a seizure or if it is just a generally high sensitivity level for those with epilepsy.

  3. I am hearing EVERYTHING right now. I was fine a few minutes ago and some noise somewhere triggered by headache and inside raging emotion. I just want to go find someplace quiet until the ‘rage’ goes away. People just look at me if I tell them I have this noise problem. Thanks for this blog.

  4. Glad to hear others experience the same problem. Our local major airport has changed its flight path and unfortunately our house is under the new flight path. The loud plane noise will start at 6 am and wakes us up. Then it’s hard to go back to sleep again. This makes us depressed sometimes. We lived at this house for 19 years before FAA changed flight path. Didn’t know they can do that without consulting local community.

    1. Same has just happened to us too. Feeling very depressed & no one wants to help. Noise complaints don’t actually have a regulation for noise levels near a residency & aviation only deal with safety but say flying safe. My life is miserable.

  5. I have problems with hearing traffic noise, especially at my house. When I am in my backyard, the sound of the road about 0.4 miles away makes me very irritated and short. Strangely, if the noise is on my street from neighbor, I don’t mind at all. It’s the idea that my peace is interrupted by a bunch of strangers cars that makes me angry. Does anyone else have a similar problem? Oh, and don’t get me started on motorcycles!

  6. 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?

  7. 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

    1. I thought I was the only person with this.Family gathering I would set with with u family on holidays after a few mins it was like I was stick hearing five conversation and not keeping up with one I finally would have to go out side and smoke to get away from it
      I also have to wear cotton in my ears to drown out the noise and also the nonstop ear pain
      I’ve got now where I only want to be in my own little bubby and that made working impose
      I even had a boss company non stop to the other works because u voice would carry and I talked to loud to block out to the noise

  8. 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.

          1. I too can’t take the noise of my own screaming children, I am going crazy. I end up screaming too and I can’t even take the sound of myself screaming.

    2. I have difficulty with family gatherings. My great grandma daughter is 3 and I have been close to her since birth. Now that she has siblings it’s even more of a problem with all the high pitched noise and chaos. I feel like a hermit some days

  9. 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.

    1. It’s so great to read others suffer like me to overloud noise… I went to a funeral today and when all family and friends gathered outside to chat after 15 minutes I wanted to run away… All I could hear was a heavy sound of like thousands of bees droning. I just wanted to run away..!! After 3/4 of an hour I had to excuse myself and left.. My head was pounding.. So thanks Linette as in large noise areas I shall use those silicone ear plugs of which I have used… Thanks again for the tip. :o)

  10. 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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