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The Basics Of Noise Sensitivity And Anxiety

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Man Screaming Over A Megaphone

For many people, noise sensitivity and anxiety go together.

In this article we’ll take a look at what noise sensitivity is, it’s causes, and ways you can cope with the condition if it brings you to an anxious state.

What Is Noise Sensitivity?

Noise sensitivity (hyperacusis) is a disorder characterized by increased sensitivity to certain frequencies or sounds. Everyday noises (like a running faucet) can feel intolerable to someone with noise sensitivity.

People affected by hyperacusis can suffer from pain, annoyance or even panic attacks from sounds that other people aren’t bothered by.

Noise sensitivity is tied to various other disorders, such as migraines, PTSD, autism, multiple sclerosis, and anxiety disorders.

There are two types.

While some people are born with noise sensitivity, others develop it during their lives. Noise sensitivity can develop from recurring ear infections, head injuries, certain diseases (such as Lyme’s) and more.

Phonophobia is another type of noise sensitivity, but it is classified as an anxiety disorder instead of a hearing disorder. In phonophobia, the sensitivity is to sudden loud sounds and not normal everyday noises.

Both types of noise sensitivity are tied to anxiety, and they might exist together in the same person.

What Causes Noise Sensitivity?

While phonophobia is anxiety that is brought on by an external stimulus – a loud sound – when someone is in an anxious state, they then become more sensitive to sound.

Studies have shown that women affected by stress can become oversensitive to sounds, perceiving normal conversation levels as painful.

So How Can You Cope With Noise Sensitivity Induced Anxiety?

The first step is to understand your triggers and the relationship between your noise sensitivity and anxiety.

Does your anxiety start when you hear certain noises, or are you anxious because of a certain thought that you had – which is, in turn, making you more sensitive to your surroundings? If you get away from the sounds, does your anxiety stop or continue?

The next step is to try to change your perception.

When you catch yourself thinking thoughts like “I can’t stand this”, remind yourself that while it may be annoying or even very difficult, you are able to get through it. Thinking that you can’t tolerate something actually increases your anxiety and sensitivity to the stimulus.

When the noise sensitivity anxiety comes up, practice grounding techniques. For example, 4-7-8 breathing (breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 7, and then slowly breathe out through pursed lips for 8) or looking around you to count 5 things you can see and 5 things you can hear.

In order to reduce the general amount of stress in your life, take steps to improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Exercise, eat clean, meditate and work through your feelings with a therapist, a friend or a journal (or all of the above!) Since stress and anxiety can increase your noise sensitivity, building your emotional resilience will help reduce these events in the future.

Remember that it might take a while before you see an improvement, but if you practice these tips consistently you will probably feel a benefit. Seeing a therapist who specializes in anxiety and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) might also be beneficial if it is available to you.

For a better understanding of how loud things really are, check out this awesome interactive infographic that will show you illustrated examples of noises and their decibel levels.


Final Thoughts

Although noise sensitivity induced anxiety is different from say generalized anxiety disorder, the symptoms and their manifestations are pretty much the same.

By regularly practicing and implementing our coping tips, you will be well on your way to a healthier, less anxious, quieter you!

Remember that everyone has their own struggles, and that you are stronger than you think. You can get through this.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments. We love to hear from you!

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