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24 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're Sensitive to Noise

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Although some people might not think twice about going to a concert or listening to overlapping chatter at the dinner table, for others, hearing loud sounds or too many noises can quickly become overwhelming and painful for the senses.

There are a number of reasons why a person may be sensitive to noise. Maybe they have a pain condition such as migraine, and sound can trigger their symptoms. Maybe they have a condition such as sensory processing disorder that causes hypersensitivity to external stimuli, and too much noise can lead to sensory overload. Perhaps they experienced a past trauma, and certain noises can lead to anxiety and panic attacks, or trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

No matter why a person may have a heightened sensitivity to sound, their symptoms and experiences are valid and deserving of respect and understanding. Still, there is often a lack of understanding about why those who are sensitive to noise do the things they do.

People who experience sensitivity to noise may often find themselves engaging in certain practices to avoid or manage sensory overload, but the reason behind their behavior isn’t always obvious to those around them. That’s why we asked our Mighty community to share something people don’t realize they’re doing because they’re sensitive to noise. If you see yourself in some of the following behaviors, know you’re not alone.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. Sometimes I have to leave the room for a few minutes. I will hide out in the bathroom or outside until I feel like I can go back in.” – Lori A.
  2. I don’t answer the phone. Listening attentively can be impossible at certain times. I just have to let calls go and hopefully be able to listen soon.” – Krista I.
  3. If I’m in a noisy environment, I tend to zone out. I get really quiet and experience things in a haze. Sometimes I can focus on something and still seem ‘with it,’ but don’t try to hold a conversation with me if it’s noisy. I’ll probably just stare in response. I’m not being rude, I just can’t filter out the excess sensory stimulation to focus on what you’re saying.” – Lindsay L.
  4. I don’t wear my hearing aid. The less I hear the easier for me.” – Acadia M.M.
  5. Leave church because people yelling up and down and tones going up and down can send me into a migraine instantly. I grew up southern Baptist and so many people like to yell all of a sudden to emphasize things and I just can’t sit through it anymore. Today I actually vomited in service it was so loud…” – Jae M.
  6. I wear headphones at work. A lot of the time I won’t actually be listening to anything, I just have them in my ears to muffle the sounds.” – Maegan D.
  7. Glaring at ‘offenders’ because I am in pain because they are loud. I promise I am a nice person but you are currently sticking knives in my ears and brain. I am trying to telepathically tell you to stop hurting me.” – Megan S.
  8. I can’t stand for people to whisper in my ear, so I will lean away from you if you try to whisper in my ear. Hot breath and the sound of the whisper are enough to make me want to tear my hair out.” – Amy L.
  9. I wear ear plugs all the time. And I wear ear defenders when I leave the house. I get some strange looks, but most people just assume they are headphones.” – Jo M.
  10. Grinding my teeth or clenching my jaw which more times than not leads to really bad tension headaches.” – Amy E.
  11. Not using the hand dryers in public bathrooms. If there are no paper towels I have to just shake my hands dry. They are so loud sometimes I can’t even handle it.” – Annie S.
  12. Telling the kids and my partner to stop talking. I literally can only manage five to 10 minutes of them before I get agitated. My little one always says, ‘I’m sorry I’m so annoying, Mummy.’ I try and tell her it’s because I’m noise sensitive but it’s hard for her.” – Hayley M.
  13. Bathroom breaks. Always and everywhere. Especially if there are no other quiet spaces to escape to for a moment or two. I need constant noise breaks.” – Katelyn I.
  14. Not visiting family because they get so excited to finally be together that they’re really loud and can’t calm down. I don’t blame them. It’s a fun environment to be in if you don’t have the sensitivity problem. I just can’t do it. They also live in every state but my own so to see them would mean I would have to travel and stay with them and not be able to get away. Last time that happened I got super disrespectful and snippy with everyone in my path. Now my fuse is much much shorter and I just can’t.” – Jillian S.
  15. I make noise complaints to the police about my neighbors.” – Karen V.
  16. I always take an end seat at the table when dining with a group, because it allows me some space to scoot a few more inches from people’s mouths. Talking and chewing so close to me can be all it takes for me to get a migraine. Even if I don’t get a migraine, I get anxiety about getting one unless I can create some additional personal space.” – Amanda H.W.
  17. Always claiming the far corner in yoga class, it’s because the ‘quiet’ music is still too loud for me.” – Tamara W.
  18. Leave the room, go find a quiet corner and scroll through Facebook for a bit so my mind can chill out before re-entering the room. Some people mistake it for being moody so I have to tell them there’s too much going on in there.” – Laura B.
  19. Use the captioning on TV so I can keep the volume lower.” – EmJ J.H.
  20. Pretend I’m resting my head on my hand but am actually plugging my ear.” – CoCo F.
  21. Listening to things at the lowest possible volume to still be able to hear everything. And having to turn music or podcasts down the longer I listen.” – Rachel S.
  22. When I’m out and about I tend to physically close my body, pulling my shoulders to my ears and always having a hand playing with my hair to stop some of the sound. I look insecure, I’m sure, but my ears just hurt.” – Gwendolyn A.
  23. Play on my phone. I can try to tune out the noise if I focus on a game on my phone. It really helps with the anxiety too.” – Charlene M.
  24. “A friend’s doctor recommended to always leave a jacket in your car. Then when you need a break, you can say, ‘I need to get my jacket’ and go sit in the car for as long as needed without anyone knowing.” – Elizabeth H.

What would you add?

Getty Image by KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Originally published: November 19, 2018
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