Low threshold for noise
September 28, 2009 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I have very low threshold for certain sounds. I can't handle noise, especially I find high pitch female or children voice unbearable. I also have trouble with neighbors walking around, the high bass thuds etc.

I am 35, male.I have always had this problem even as a kid or teenager. I cannot stand people eating or chewing noisy. I have left restaurants for that reason.

I can't stand hearing chatter coming from the distance.

I can't seem to focus at work (cubicle farm) or never feel relaxed at home.

However I don't have any problem listening to music loud, or traffic, or animals, or nature.

I have a history of OCD / depression/ anxiety, tendency to get obsessed. I know you are not my doctor, but where do you think I should seek for the solution?

Is this a psychological problem or is it there a physiological condition in which a persons senses are just too acute/sensitive? I am asking this because under fluorescent light my face and eyes turn red too.
posted by neworder7 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm afraid I don't have good advice about actual treatment, but while you're working on that could you at least use good earplugs? That (and maybe good noise-canceling headphones) might be a good temporary fix.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:38 PM on September 28, 2009

Cheap foam earplugs are crap. Look for a pair that look like conical Christmas trees at your local military surplus store.

You can accomplish more than you think with meditation, too.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:43 PM on September 28, 2009

or medication
posted by patnok at 6:48 PM on September 28, 2009

Could this be you?

I don't know what all that might getcha, I had a therapist tell me once I was an HSP, and my general reaction to that was "well, yeah, and?" But I figured I'd bring it up.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2009

Best answer: I think everyone has auditory pet peeves, certain sounds they can't stand while being able to stand sounds considered by others more annoying.
I think if you couple this with your history of OCD, it could mean you've become obsessive about these peeves. I don't know how you'd go about treating them, but I assume much the same way as you would any other obsessive behavior as someone with OCD.

Just to clarify, IANADoctor/Psychiatrist.
posted by alon at 6:55 PM on September 28, 2009

I had something similar...although mine was a sudden onset, and more to do with decibel level and certain pitches...and it's periodic, not all the time.

I was recommended to a neurologist, but didn't have insurance, and couldn't afford the various tests they wanted to run, so I've settled for carrying military grade earplugs with me all the time. I also switched to an over-ear foam pad headset for my mp3 player, and with the combination, I can block almost anything out if it starts bothering me in arenas where I can't leave (work), or change the noise level (markets).

Anyway, if you have insurance, I would probably check with a neurologist, this sounds right up their alley.
posted by dejah420 at 7:00 PM on September 28, 2009

Best answer: Hyperacusis is sound sensitivity. Specifically, my amateur diagnosis is soft sound sensitivity syndrome, if it helps.
posted by glibhamdreck at 7:07 PM on September 28, 2009

Best answer: See the Wikipedia entry for Hyperacusis.
posted by megatherium at 7:09 PM on September 28, 2009

Best answer: I have the same issue with high-pitched female and children's voices. And I teach in an all girl's high school. So, that's awesome...

When my students got loud I started to shut down physically and mentally. I couldn't think, move, speak. I had to close my ears and take a few deep breaths. Usually my reaction to the noise freaked the kids out enough that they stopped talking, but that wasn't a good long-term solution.

I didn't seek medical treatment for that problem specifically, but I did start seeing a psychiatrist for other issues (ADHD and anxiety). I was prescribed Adderall for ADHD (a condition I have dealt with since childhood) and Zoloft for anxiety. I have noticed a marked difference in my tolerance for noise.

I still get very agitated by loud/sharp noises, but the frequency of the disturbances has subsided. I don't know if my history helps at all, but perhaps it's a starting point for you.

Good luck, and you aren't alone.
posted by junipero at 7:44 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're definitely not alone. The things you described are the types of sounds that I have issues with too, especially in the cube farm environment.

Lots of good suggestions so far. Something you might want to look into is cognitive behavioral therapy.

Also, sensitivity to sounds can be an aspect of Asperger's Syndrome.
posted by chez shoes at 8:25 PM on September 28, 2009

My Dad lost most of his hearing, particularly high-pitched wives' or daughters' voices, some twenty years ago. Through a combination of his reading lips and our speaking slowly and loudly, we can communicate. But I get interested in the conversation, and I forget and start speaking more naturally -- and then he can't understand me.

Me: Blah blah blah --
My Dad: Methyl! Goddamnit! If you want me to HEAR you, you have to SLOW DOWN!

Me: Blah blah blah --
My Dad: (beatific smile)
Me: Blah blah bl -- Oh. 'It's like the twittering of little birds?'
My Dad: It's like the twittering of little birds...

The difference? Beta-blockers.

For you, too, I think the answer is within. If the medication you took for your OCD helped you to communicate with, or at least tolerate, so many of the people you meet in the course of a day, wouldn't that alone be worth it? At least two-thirds of humanity is a woman or a child...
posted by Methylviolet at 8:33 PM on September 28, 2009

I have sort of the same problem, and used to have a "WTF, are these people TRYING to annoy me??" and go crazy. Then I realized that the noisy people in my life happened to also be selfish people, and I quickly realized that as such, the LAST thing they are thinking about is me. That makes it much more tolerable.
posted by gjc at 12:05 AM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

I became a lot more tolerant to noise after seeking treatment for my depression/anxiety issues. At the time this included medication and therapy, so I think you should try looking in that direction. I'm willing to bet that this is treatable.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:14 AM on September 29, 2009

I should also note that my husband, who suffers from OCD has had the same problem in a noisy restaurant. Last year we went out for his birthday, and had to leave the moment our entrees were served. We spent quite some time trying to reassure the manager that it had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with 'us'.
posted by sunshinesky at 6:18 AM on September 29, 2009

I read somewhere that sensitivity to noise was frequently an indicator that a person was somewhere on the autism spectrum, not OCD-ness.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2009

Best answer: Hi all
Thank you for your replies. It looks like there are three conditions, hyperacusis, phonophobia, and misophonia.

Just in a nutshell;
hyperacusis is over sensitivity to sound, underlying resason is often physiological

misohponia sensitivity to certain sounds such as chewing gum, slurping, children voice etc.. not necessarily loud sounds.

I am ok with loudness, but sensitive to certain sounds so it looks like I might be mildly suffering from that.

I came across this book Tinnitus Retraining Therapy which has someuseful tips how to deal with it. Although most suggestions are for tinnitus, misophonia is handled in similar fashion.

Thank you all again.
posted by neworder7 at 2:36 AM on October 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: another useful resource: http://www.tinnitus.org , misophonia and tinnitus are related issues and handling of tinnitus and and misophonia are the same.
posted by neworder7 at 5:57 AM on October 3, 2009

« Older How do I compare these lists?   |   You're one of us now! You don't belong to them... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.