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Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud

December 27, 2013 Paulissa Kipp

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.

APA Reference
Kipp, P. (2013, December 27). Noise Sensitivity: When The World Is Too Loud, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, January 21 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2013/12/when-the-world-is-too-loud-noise-sensitivity



Author: Paulissa Kipp

Delois
September, 27 2014 at 5:06 am

I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this problem. I haven't been to church in a while and may not go back, unless I can change to a small, quiet church because ours has become so loud I can't stand it. Some people are wearing ear plugs, but I refuse to wear them in church. I have to wear them when we travel because my husband's snoring keeps me awake, and I always wind up with an earache. The sound of people smacking and slurping when eating really sets me off inside, as do many other sounds that most people don't mind. Unlike so many, I don't like to listen to music unless it's something I've chosen to play, and I don't like to hear even my favorites do several songs in a row, preferring a mix of singers. I love to sing at church, or used to when I could hear myself and the person next to me, and I play several instruments, but I usually don't like to just listen when I'm not participating. I guess mine must be a mental problem! But it's very real and makes my life miserable.

Janet
September, 5 2014 at 11:19 pm

I have had this since an ear infection, life trauma but I also have mental health issues and physical including chronic fatigue syndrome fibro hypermobiity dissociative disorder and ptsd. It got worse during a very stressful time but as a hypervigilant person I find it difficult to deal with especialy when it is loud rumbling

paul
August, 29 2014 at 5:20 pm

The article makes it sound like sensitivity to noise is mental illness. Seems to me it is the other way around. People's constant need for stimulation is a way to avoid the effects of trauma resulting from our culture's disconnect from the natural world.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paul B
July, 14 2018 at 8:19 am

That makes sense to me - my partner loves noise and brightly lit rooms etc and I am the opposite, we are in our fifties and although I believe I am abnormally sensitive to noise specially in times of stress, at the same time I think as people get older generally speaking we seek out more natural and therefore peaceful environments.

CariM228
August, 9 2014 at 3:52 pm

WOW. I never realized this .... I know that a few years back, when I was going through some serious stress (plus medical issues), I reached a point where the sounds of some incredibly talkative coworkers set me off...... I could hear their yakking through my office door, and it was all I could do not to open the door and scream, "Can't you just quit (expletive) talking for two whole minutes, and then two more, and then two more....?" I never thought it could be tied into more than just what I was going through at the time (prior to my MH diagnosis). This explains an awful lot about my need for quieter times. Thank you!

MirthaSimmons
July, 19 2014 at 10:18 am

I am bipolar diagnosed when I was in my early twenties and currently 70 years old. I am just now learning about "noise sensitivity" and realize that I have always hated noise and this high pitched noise/ringing in my ears. I always thought it was normal and everyone has it. I am glad to now know what it is called. You have helped me so much to finally put that piece of the puzzle together. I am so grateful.

Kerry Horan
July, 19 2014 at 2:21 am

Tracy, Imagree with Mike. Please see someone. I work with people with these sensitivities and what I have noticed is that sometimes it is related to being hyper vigilant or constantly looking out for dangers, and sometimes it is specific to the individual. A book that was recommended to me is The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aaron. It really does explain a lot about this and how to protect yourself and manage your sensitivity. All the best Tracy.

Tracy
June, 28 2014 at 6:22 pm

My family thinks I'm crazy because I can not stand the sound of fans. Box fans, small fans, bathroom fans. Especially if the fan is on and the TV is on at the same time. It just drives me crazy. I feel bad because everyone else make me feel like I'm just trying to complain. I wish this would go away, but no hope fpr that so far. Any suggestions, or anybody else with the same issue? Is there a name/condition for this? Any help Please?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Mike Ehrmantrout
June, 29 2014 at 6:19 am

Hi Tracy. I'm sorry to hear of your suffering. I'm not a doctor. I urge you to seek medical help. There may be a therapy or medication that could help you, but you won't know unless you seek it out. Good luck to you and your family.

Shane
June, 25 2014 at 12:42 pm

I've suffered this for years as well. I work in a noisy crowded call center; earplugs and music are out of the question. I have to grit my teeth and carry on and try to sound professional when all I want to do is crawl into a sensory deprivation chamber and weep.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Mike Ehrmantrout
June, 26 2014 at 5:16 am

Hi Shane. The Americans with Disabilities Act (www.ada.gov) requires employers to make "reasonable accommodation" for people with disabilities to help level the playing field. You should see your Human Resources department to request accommodation. Again, the request must be "reasonable." Noise cancelling earphones might be a reasonable request. Or you might have an even better idea for yourself.

Linda
January, 22 2014 at 8:33 am

Thank you for this information. My son suffers from a thought disorder and I always assumed that his sensitivity to the sound of the TV was relaed to his psychosis. However I know that there maybe another explanation for it.

Pippy
January, 19 2014 at 1:27 pm

here i thought i was alone in this. wow, so many of us out there, how come i have never heard of this till now! my nerves feel shot most of the time. in my fifties and it is worse then ever. the older i get the more irritable i get. i decided today to never go shopping with others. there is no escape! too much noise! i try to be appreciative of all i have, but it is getting harder as the years go one. glad i am not alone. i need a roommate that is more like me. no tv or radio, not a lot of talk, etc. hard to find people like us!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paul B
July, 14 2018 at 8:13 am

Yes same here, I remember having this first as a young child but was too afraid to tell anyone as I thought there was something wrong with me - so I kept it secret.
As I`ve got older I find during a bout of stress noise is always the biggest trigger, however there are positive mental manipulations that can help as can the previous posters comments.

Robinn G
January, 9 2014 at 11:09 am

I've had this all my life but never knew it had a name! When my anxiety is higher than usual (I'm usually anxious), sounds that don't bother me normally just feel like they are driving through my head like a sharp arrow. I usually have to leave the room when my great-nephew is there as he likes to screech when he doesn't get his way. I'm lucky in that I can adjust to loudness as long as it is loud by necessity (machinery running) but paper shuffling can get annoying. Another thing I can't tolerate is silence. When I have to study in the library, I take my iPod with me to fill up the lack of noise. I actually study better in snack bars. Certainly backwards from the issue with my great-nephew!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 13 2014 at 3:25 pm

I understand what you mean Robinn. I don't know what mental health professionals call this phenomenon but I refer to it as noise sensitivity. I can understand both silence and certain noises being too much to handle.

Teri
January, 4 2014 at 7:18 am

For me, noise sensitivity is when my anxiety goes up, and any noise, the smallest noise, is unbearable. Not that it hurts my ears...it makes my anxiety go way up even more. Someone talking, the loudness seems to be amplified and the only way I can deal with it is to leave and put my headphones in and turn the music on where I can hear no one else. For me, music is my therapy almost. That's what I consider noise sensitivity, I don't know about others.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 4 2014 at 7:43 am

For me, any noise is unbearable as well. It makes me feel as though I can't escape and ramps up the anxiety.

Kris
January, 4 2014 at 4:28 am

If I can't get out of the area I've found that bringing my ipod and putting in my ear buds and listening to music helps. I know the songs so they don't overwhelm me and I can't hear the chaos outside. Noise is a big trigger of migraines and anxiety for me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 4 2014 at 7:44 am

I like to listen to music as well and just block out the noise.

bluephoenix
January, 4 2014 at 4:25 am

Cool air on my face helps. Most often I have to leave the environment. Sometimes I can go back to it, sometimes not. At home I have a fan running most of the time. I have noticed that when it is completely quiet in the house I hear a high pitched almost ringing in my ears. Don't know if that's related.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 4 2014 at 7:46 am

Some of the research that I came across mentioned that noise sensitivity is related a bit to tinnitus, so the high pitched ringing you mention may be more common than realized.

Nancy March
December, 31 2013 at 6:25 am

I never knew about this in my growing up yrs and Ive struggled with this all my life.My family said I was just an angry child all the time,but ive had several occasions throughout life when noise triggers me,and it makes me angry,one of those triggers is I get angry at people whenI have unmet needs but I cant tolerate being yelled at because it triggers me

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 4 2014 at 7:48 am

I can understand the anger. For me I get angry but can't always find the words to express what the needs are.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 13 2014 at 3:26 pm

I struggle with find the words to express what I need sometimes as well except to say "leave me alone", even when I really don't want to be alone, I just want it to be quiet.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Jess
October, 20 2018 at 8:38 am

Yelling is a big trigger for me as well.

Nat
December, 31 2013 at 4:21 am

Great post but on the topic of mental health sensory overload can be related to mental health psychosis. When I am in an agitated depression everything is too loud and too bright and very scary. Nonetheless, great post I just wish you might have elaborated more in the context of mental illness.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Paulissa Kipp
January, 4 2014 at 7:50 am

Not being a mental health professional, I really don't feel qualified to discuss mental illness at length except in relaying my own experiences.

JB
December, 31 2013 at 4:12 am

i usually bring earplugs wherever i go, including work. i have a mild brain injury, tmj & migraines.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Marc
February, 20 2019 at 8:38 am

At my work, I sit by a noisy door, people going in & out all day long, and it's so distracting. I wear my earbuds to listen to music on my phone, pretty much all day to block the door noise out. Thank God my work lets us wear them!

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