Noise Sensitivity Impacts The Daily Lives of Many

Image of a happy woman wearing Loop earplugs to manage her noise sensitivity and a baby laying on a blue and yellow coloured blanket

For some, everyday sounds seem so much louder than they should. So much so, they can initiate both a physical and an emotional response. Study results vary, however it is thought that between 2-9% of the UK population displayed some form of noise sensitivity symptoms, also known as hyperacusis.

With as many as 6 million noise sensitivity sufferers in the UK, we wanted to understand the impact noise sensitivity has had on their lives. What are the potential sounds individuals are most sensitive to? What coping strategies do they use? Has the pandemic impacted their sensitivity to certain sounds? So we went ahead and did a survey, and were surprised by the results.

Methodology

We surveyed 500 UK-based adults suffering from noise sensitivity, to find out more about the impact noise sensitivity has on their life, what sounds they’re sensitive to (both indoor and outdoor), what sounds they’ve become more sensitive to since the pandemic, as well as the strategies they use to cope.

The Responses

We’ve listed below, the questions we’ve asked and the responses we received:

The Impact Noise Sensitivity Has On Everyday Life

We asked 500 UK respondents the question ‘How much of an impact has noise sensitivity had on your everyday life?’

  • 40% felt that noise sensitivity had a significant impact on their everyday life, that they suffer enough that it affects their routine.
  • 20% felt it had a big impact where they suffered with it a lot, so much so they had to change their routine all the time.
  • 28% felt there was a small impact (only mildly suffer with it)
  • 10% felt there was no impact (don’t suffer at all)
  • 2% felt it had a huge impact where it was debilitating and really struggled to cope. 

90% of the UK respondents felt noise sensitivity impacted their everyday life. With a total of 60% feeling it had a big or huge impact on their everyday life, so much so, they needed to change their routine. 

The Types Of Noise UK Respondents Are Most Sensitive To

We asked the question ‘Which types of noise, if any, are you most sensitive to?’

  • 65% of the respondents were most sensitive to children playing / crying.
  • 59% were most sensitive to noisy neighbors.
  • 58% were most sensitive to household appliances.
  • 38% were most sensitive to other people talking on their phones
  • 35% were most sensitive to people eating loudly
  • 32% were most sensitive to mouth breathers / loud breathers.

Noise from children has topped the list as the most sensitive noise for UK residents, closely followed by noisy neighbors and household appliances.

The Noises UK Respondents Have Been More Sensitive To Since The Pandemic

We asked ‘Which noises, if any, do you think you’ve become more sensitive to because of the pandemic?’

  • 60% of respondents were more sensitive to kitchen appliances
  • 60% of respondents were more sensitive to kids playing at home
  • 43% of respondents were more sensitive to vacuum cleaners
  • 42% of respondents were more sensitive to loud conversations
  • 41% of respondents were more sensitive to roadworks or construction
  • 36% of respondents were more sensitive to loud music

 
Both kitchen appliances and kids playing at home have topped the list here. Again highlighting a strong focus on noise from children as a top noise sensitivity. 

The Coping Strategies

We asked ‘What, if anything, do you do to help reduce the impact/effects of your noise sensitivity?’

  • 59% of respondents wore earplugs
  • 59% of respondents removed themselves from the environment
  • 50% of respondents avoid situations which are likely to be triggering
  • 36% of respondents listen to music / white noise

UK residents with hearing sensitivity admitted to wearing earplugs to reduce annoying noises, with even half of them completely avoiding triggering situations. For those who wore earplugs to reduce sound, Loop recommends using earplugs that reduce annoying sounds, to still be able to hear what's important. 

The Most Sensitive Outdoor Noises - UK

We asked ‘Which of the following outdoor sounds, if any, do you find to be the most distracting?’

  • 57% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of kids playing loudly
  • 51% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of babies crying
  • 35% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of roadworks or other construction
  • 34% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of loud conversations
  • 33% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of cars on a busy road (sirens, horn honking etc.)
  • 32% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of a passersby snorting sneezing or coughing
  • 29% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of loud music
  • 29% of respondents were most distracted by the outdoor noise of a train or metro

 
The most distracting outdoor noise was kids playing loudly followed by babies crying. Are we noting a common theme here?

The Most Sensitive Indoor Noises - UK

We asked ‘Which of the following indoor sounds, if any, do you find to be the most distracting?’

  • 50% of respondents were most distracted by the indoor noise of kids playing loudly
  • 49% of respondents were most distracted by the noise of kitchen appliances
  • 41% of respondents were most distracted by the noise from neighbors
  • 35% of respondents were most distracted by the noise from other household members / conversations
  • 33% of respondents were most distracted by cars on a busy road (sirens, horn honking etc.)
  • 32% of respondents were most distracted by passersby snorting sneezing or coughing
  • 29% of respondents were most distracted by loud music
  • 29% of respondents were most distracted by trains or metro

They’ve topped it again: The most distracting indoor noise is kids playing loudly. This was very closely followed by kitchen appliances..

US Survey

We conducted a survey in the US and asked the respondents some of the same questions:

  • What indoor and outdoor noises US respondents were most sensitive to
  • What noises they were more sensitive to because of the pandemic,
The Most Sensitive Outdoor Noises - US
  • The highest distracting outdoor sound for US residents were cars on a busy road (sirens, horns honking etc) at 34%. (This was similar for the UK at 33%.)
  • 29% of US residents found kids playing loudly as the most distracting outdoor sound (Compared to 57% in the UK.)
  • 32% of US respondents found babies crying as the most distracting outdoor sound. (Compared to 51% in the UK.)
Other top culprits for US residents were loud music and roadworks or other construction. There was  more of an emphasis for the US on sensitivity to cars and road noises than there was in the UK.
 
The Most Sensitive Indoor Noises - US
  • The highest distracting indoor sound for the US was noise from neighbors at 30% (UK 41%) and noise from other people’s electronics, also at 30% (UK 26%).
  • 28% of US respondents found kids playing loudly as the most distracting indoor sound (Compared to 50% in the UK.)
  • 29% of US respondents found kitchen appliances the most distracting indoor sound, (Compared to 49% in the UK.)

Distracting noises for US respondents came from noise from other household members either having conversations or using personal electronics.

Pandemic

  • 43% of US respondents felt that they had become more sensitive to loud music because of the pandemic.
  • This was closely followed by 42% stating they had become more sensitive to roadworks / construction (41% for UK) and also 42% to loud conversations (also 42% for the UK),
  • 40% of US residents were more sensitive to kids playing at home since the pandemic (Compared to 60% for the UK.)

* The US survey was conducted to 2,003 respondents, to an American general population. The survey was conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Loop Earplugs.

Summary

Our survey highlights how many UK residents with noise sensitivity felt it impacted their everyday life, with 90% claiming that it did! Also shockingly, half of our respondents felt they needed to avoid any triggering situations.
 
We love our kids, but their noise has definitely topped the charts for the most distracting noise for UK residents, indoor and outdoor and really just generally.
 
We noted that 59% of respondents used earplugs to help reduce the impact of noise sensitivity, meaning 41% of those with noise sensitivity in the UK still don’t. Our range of quiet, experience and experience pro ear plugs allow you to live life at your volume and to better manage your noise sensitivity.