What is Noise Sensitivity?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Noise sensitivity is a medical condition in which different types of sounds create a great deal of discomfort for an individual. There are several different forms of hearing sensitivity, some of which are permanent in nature. Other types of sound sensitivity develop as a result of an underlying physical or mental ailment and will begin to dissipate once the ailment is diagnosed and successfully treated.

Noise sensitivity may develop as a result of an abnormality in the middle or inner ear.
Noise sensitivity may develop as a result of an abnormality in the middle or inner ear.

Misophonia is one of the more common forms of sensitivity to noise. With this manifestation, an individual finds it impossible to tolerate specific sounds, regardless of the decibel level of the sound. For example, a person may experience noise anxiety that leads to a panic attack when hearing a train whistle. At the same time, music that is just as loud as the train whistle may produce no discomfort at all.

Trauma to the ear may cause noise sensitivity.
Trauma to the ear may cause noise sensitivity.

Hyperacusis is another type of noise sensitivity. In this scenario, an individual is not adversely affected by particular sounds, but by a certain range or frequency of sound. Any noise that falls within that range will trigger a severe reaction that is very difficult to tolerate. Unlike most people, a person with hyperacusis cannot filter various forms of noise. As a result, the individual experiences what is perceived as a solid wall of noise that is constantly closing in. This form of sensitivity can be especially difficult to live with, since many people suffering with the condition find it unbearable to be in any setting where everyday sounds take place.

Noise sensitivity may be present with migraine headaches.
Noise sensitivity may be present with migraine headaches.

The underlying causes for the different types of noise sensitivity may be due to some sort of trauma to the body or as a result of some type of abnormality in the middle or inner ear that becomes apparent as the individual ages. Various illnesses can also result in the development of this type of sensitive hearing over a period of time. In most cases, it is possible to treat the cause even while taking steps to alleviate the pain and discomfort of this type of hearing problem.

Noise sensitivity may occur as a side effect of certain medications.
Noise sensitivity may occur as a side effect of certain medications.

Among physical illnesses that can lead to noise sensitivity, conditions such as constant migraine headaches may lead to the development of hearing issues. A sudden trauma, such as a head injury, may trigger the problems with hearing. Severe panic disorder may also be accompanied by oversensitive hearing that in turn facilitates panic attacks. Ear infections, surgery, and the use of some prescription medications can also lead to this heightened reaction to noise.

Noise sensitivity may occur as a result of an ear infection.
Noise sensitivity may occur as a result of an ear infection.

In some cases, people suffering from noise sensitivity can use earplugs to muffle the sounds and obtain some relief. Others find that changing medications or treating the underlying disease or ailment will allow hearing to return to normal. In the case of a head injury or surgery, the sensitivity to noise will begin to ease as the individual heals.

Earplugs may help with noise sensitivity.
Earplugs may help with noise sensitivity.

Should you find yourself growing more sensitive to noise, it is important to see a doctor immediately. Since the condition can be a symptom of several different conditions like Bell’s Palsy, or Tension Myositis Syndrome, an early diagnosis can not only help relieve the pain of enduring various sounds, but also make it possible to treat the underlying health issue before it has a chance to worsen.

Noise sensitvity can be a symptom of Bell's palsy, a full or partial paralysis of the face.
Noise sensitvity can be a symptom of Bell's palsy, a full or partial paralysis of the face.
Some forms of hearing sensitivity are permanent.
Some forms of hearing sensitivity are permanent.
People with misophonia find it impossible to tolerate certain sounds.
People with misophonia find it impossible to tolerate certain sounds.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments

anon938990

I had meningitis five years ago, and my hearing has been a mess ever since. Noises such as little kid voices drive me absolutely insane. This is a real condition. I can't stand the sound of my GF's daughter's voice and she is 18. Whenever she talks above a quiet voice, I have to leave the room. It's like someone driving a screwdriver through my ear.

motherteresa

This is new to me, but I think I have Misophonia. I can not stand the sound of some people eating. Usually older people making strange sounds when munching. Or another noise that bothers me is when people read or pray silently, however they actually are not fully silent, they tend to read/pray in a very low almost whispering voice. It just drives me up the wall.

I was wondering why that is, now I know.

anon289778

I don't think this is a medical condition or an illness. Think again!

anon154377

I have the same problem except loud music at church seems to cause pressure in my chest or a feeling that the music is messing with my heartbeat. I hope someone can help me.

anon107242

I had to leave the church service this morning. the sound level made me feel nausated and disoriented. It has happened before. and I waited till the singing finished before going back in. At the moment my ears fell achy, but not severe, and I have a slight headache. What do I do?

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