How to block out unwanted sounds?
June 9, 2010 7:45 AM   Subscribe

How can I block out unwanted sounds?

I read this previous thread about how people with autism respond to noise and it resonated with me. There weren't any solutions on how not be distracted by noise that didn't involve wearing headphones which other threads talk about as well or having white noise in the background. I would like to find a way to enjoy social situations or be in a quiet home and not "hear" all the other noises going on around me.

More in depth explanation:

Hearing unwanted sounds is a particular problem in my private space such as my home where I suppose I let all my barriers down. I am introverted and want to come home and relax, but find that my ears are pricked by noise from the neighbours or the street regardless of how minor. My mind then dwells on the noise almost in anticipation of it returning and it takes me some time to relax again. I have mentioned these sounds to others and they either didn't hear them leading me to think that I have sensitve hearing, or they heard the sounds but didn't "listen" and wear able to ignore it.

I am fine if I have the TV or music on loud enough to block out all these little noises, but as soon as I am in silence or talking with company I become alert to any sound that I know my household hasn't made. I can usually tell if noise is from my household and I have no problem with it, perhaps it is because I know what is going on. Noise from elsewhere is an unknown quantity and gets me on edge though. Cars driving past seems like white noise to me, birds are fine, but thumps, voices, screams etc alert my senses.

I was on beta-blockers for a while and noticed that my perception of unwanted sound was a lot lower. It was great because I didn't become distracted at every little noise - I heard the sounds but didn't really "hear" them. I am aware that beta-blockers are only a short term measure so have not used them beyond what I was prescribed.

I would prefer a method of adjusting to noise that involves me amending my perception of the unwanted sounds so that I don't become antisocial by having headphones in or loud TV/music on. I have never meditated before but get the impression of calmness from those who have, if that is a solution is there a website online that gives guidance, a form to practice or books that can be recommended? That might not be the best course of action but anything that anyone could suggest would be most welcome.
posted by lilyflower to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Meditation has helped me with this very issue. I have been doing the technique given at the advanced yoga practices website (don't be intimidated by the name). All the information there is free, and there's an active community on the forums that will help with any issues. There is a degree of woo on the forums, but it can easily be ignored.

There are other techniques out there. I have been looking at switching to a mindfulness practice. The book Mindfulness in Plain English is available for free online and has a couple of sections devoted specifically to dealing with distractions.
posted by pahool at 8:21 AM on June 9, 2010

A friend of mine raves about insulation designed to block noise as well as heat. High quality windows and frames that block noise are also available. The aforementioned friend used these things to make a triplex he purchased a better place for renters. When he first acquired it, one could hear just about anything going on outside. When he was done, he could play loud music in one flat and not hear it in the flat next door.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 8:22 AM on June 9, 2010

I don't know if this suggestion will help or just be another sound that is difficult to hear, but I know many therapists use a white noise sound machine that simply blocks out the sounds from outside their office. I'm told you don't even notice it after awhile.
posted by ChicagoTherapyConnection at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2010

If you want to test drive the white noise idea. This website can give you an idea of what it's like.
posted by pahool at 11:01 AM on June 9, 2010

My husband had to learn to adjust to tinnitus, which for him is a constant ringing that never really goes away. He found that wearing noise-canceling headphones helped, when he was alone. He just turned the noise canceling on but didn't listen to any music, and gradually trained himself to become used to the noise in his ears. (You can still hear things with the headphones on, so you'll know if the phone is ringing - it cuts the volume down sharply, though.) It seems like that might help you, as well.
posted by TrixieBiltmore at 4:01 PM on June 9, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers, pahool's answer is just what I was hoping for - a method for controlling how I respond to things that are beyond my control in regards to noise.

I would rather learn to alter my response to unwanted noise as that seems to be the issue, because unfortunately I can't make the world a quieter place! I cannot be social with a white noise machine on in the background or with noise cancelling earplugs in so I need to interpret the unwanted sounds differently.

Answers that address how I can change the way I process sounds from the surrounding environment would be most welcome.
posted by lilyflower at 1:15 AM on June 10, 2010

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