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 2020, June 5 from

Author: Paulissa Kipp

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.

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 ( 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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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)

October, 20 2018 at 8:38 am

Yelling is a big trigger for me as well.

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.

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)

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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