What is noise sensitivity anxiety and what can you do to reduce it?

Do loud environments often make you feel panicked or overwhelmed? Well, you’re not alone. Noise sensitivity anxiety is a common issue, and while different people experience it to varying degrees, it can be difficult to deal with for anyone.

For some people, anxiety can be triggered by unexpected noises such as fireworks, backfiring cars, or sudden shouting. For others, simple everyday sounds such as chewing, music, and coughing can cause significant distress. At the more extreme end of the scale, noise sensitivity issues can have a big impact on people’s lives, leading them to avoid certain situations and become socially isolated.

In this post, we look at the common kinds of noise sensitivity and some of the ways you can reduce anxiety in loud environments to live a more comfortable life.

Common types of noise-related sensitivity and anxiety

There are several types of sensitivity and anxiety caused by loud and distressing noises, some of which have overlapping symptoms. Some of the most common include:

Phonophobia

Phonophobia, or fear of noise, is characterized by anxiety in the presence of loud noises. This could include anything from applause to passing vehicles, music, shouting, and more. Understandably, this can make crowded areas and social situations very difficult for people to deal with.

Misophonia

Misophonia is a condition involving repulsion and anger in response to noises made by others. For example, someone may become intensely angry at the sound of chewing, finger-tapping, or coughing. This can lead to strained relationships with others and avoidance of social situations.

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Noise sensitivity (hyperacusis)

Noise sensitivity, or hyperacusis, is where many noises may seem louder and more overwhelming than they do to others, and sufferers can experience significant stress, panic, or anger as a result.

How to reduce noise sensitivity anxiety

symptoms of noise sensitivity symptoms of noise sensitivity

Try not to avoid loud places

Yes, you read that right. It might sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. Noise sensitivity issues often elicit a fight or flight response, so one of the most common effects is for people to simply avoid loud places altogether. However, not only can this have a serious impact on their quality of life, it can actually make the problem even worse when they inevitably do encounter loud noises.

More on noise sensitivity

So, it’s important to try to live life as normally as possible and find ways to mitigate and treat your anxiety rather than completely avoid loud environments.

Earplugs to enjoy loud environments in comfort

Earplugs are a simple way for anyone suffering from a form of noise sensitivity anxiety to live a more comfortable life. If you feel overwhelmed by loud environments, earplugs can reduce the intensity so you won’t have to avoid social situations, and may also help to reduce anticipatory anxiety. Different earplugs are suited to different situations, so choosing the right earplugs is important.

Earplugs are affordable, small, and effective. Just carrying them in your pocket can greatly reduce the risk of being caught out unexpectedly, and many people find that this enables them to live without the fear of loud noises.

Specialized hearing aids

You may associate hearing aids with increased sound intensity, but some devices can actually benefit sufferers of noise sensitivity anxiety by emitting a calming sound, such as running water. For some people, this can help to reduce feelings of panic, allowing them to focus on the calming sound instead of external noises.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

For serious cases of noise sensitivity anxiety, CBT can be an excellent way to change the thought patterns that lead to the anxiety. CBT should always be done under professional guidance and is not an instant fix, but the effects can be life-changing for extreme sufferers of noise-related anxiety.

Exposure therapy to reduce your stress response

Exposure therapy, either with the help of a professional or simply by gradually exposing yourself to loud noises in a controlled way, can also help you respond less severely to loud situations. To expose yourself to noises, try the following steps:

1. Determine which sound or sounds you are most sensitive to. It could be a specific sound, such as a type of music, coughing, or banging, or it could simply be any noise over a certain volume.

2. Record the noise, or find a recording of it online.

3. Go somewhere comfortable, such as at home on your couch, and try to imagine the sound. Try to familiarize yourself with it and notice if you feel anxiety. Use relaxation techniques if necessary.

4. Once you feel a little more comfortable with the sound, try listening to the recording of it at a low volume. It’s likely that you’ll feel anxious, so take it slowly.

5. Practice relaxation techniques (such as meditation and breathing techniques) to manage your anxiety levels if they start to rise.

6. Increase the volume of the recording as you become more used to it.

7. Repeat this at regular intervals, for example daily, or as often as you can manage. Over time, your response should start to become less intense.

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