Is needing background noise weird?
December 5, 2006 11:56 AM   Subscribe

[AmIWeirdFilter] I can't do any serious reading or writing without background noise. Am I weird?

I need a TV blaring in the background to write (academically). I need my iPod with music to read at the library (academically). I have to listen to a podcast as I walk or ride the bus.

I am diagnosed with ADD, but I was wondering if other people are like this.

It isn't a problem for me, but annoys my boyfriend and officemates.
posted by k8t to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm very much the same, I need at least a few similatanious streams of content (book, music, radio, podcast, tv, etc) to keep focused and thinking.

I work much better at the library if I'm listening to/ignoring music on my ipod than if I'm wondering what that creak or graon and beep in the background is.

As far as the podcasts on the commute, I do that as well, but mostly because I feel the time is wasted otherwise. There's so much to learn and know, you might as well be absorbing information as often as possible.
posted by tiamat at 12:02 PM on December 5, 2006

I can't do serious work when there's music blaring in my headphones, but I focus much better when there's a low hum of background activity. Thus, I do lots of my work in coffee shops, restaurants, etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2006

In a word? No. You aren't weird.

Plenty of people need auditory stimulation while they're working. I can't stand a quiet room -- that's why I like to write at cafes and such. The distractions actually focus me and keep me from getting distracted. I've always been like that. And I don't have ADD or any similar thing. So no worries, you're perfectly normal.
posted by incessant at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2006

Not at all. I'm at my best after a few hours of dim light and absolute silence.
posted by popcassady at 12:22 PM on December 5, 2006

I require a fan to sleep. Even in the winter the low hum and the breeze across my face are a necessity to sleep, and I cant sleep without a fan. I would like to be able to stop this, but I have tried (for 3 days) and didnt sleep well any of those nights. I slept a little, but not a significant amount. I think I need the noise more than the breeze, but I need to tune the excess cycles of my brain to listening to the fan in order to get things done. It is like my own personal system idle process.

posted by koolkat at 12:34 PM on December 5, 2006

Best answer: i'm not an AD/HD professional (medically, at least), but i work in the field, and all the reading i've done + personal anecdotes suggests that this is pretty common, and not limited to the ADD world. i like to work/read in coffee shops and will listen to music on headphones if there's not enough ambient noise around my office.

i think it has to do with distracting the parts of your brain that aren't focusing on the task at hand, but in a way that doesn't interfere with your primary task. i've always conceptualized it as giving my distractable brainbits something to play with so they're not interrupting me with random thoughts about errands i have to run, what's outside my window, if there are any new threads on AskMe worth reading, etc.
posted by sonofslim at 12:50 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't think this need for noise makes you weird.
It's probably relatively unusual for you to need the sound so LOUD, most people are content with background noise of some kind, but it's still a relatively normal thing.

It sounds like your solutions for fulfilling this need are having a negative impact on others, though. I do think you should find a more acceptable solution with regard to your officemates, though. And probably with your boyfriend, too. If you can use headphones in the library, how about using them at home?

If your job involves having to answer the phone, you might have to just suck it up and not listen to headphones while you're there.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 1:31 PM on December 5, 2006

Clive Barker likes music but only without words, Neil Gaiman doesn't mind the words and picks songs that help set the mood he needs to write what he wants to write, Stephen King tends to listen to AC/DC etc., and loud. So there's some variety in what even professional authors want while writing (though that doesn't answer the question of if any of those men are weird).

At any rate, Gaiman talks about music and writing and silly creative writing professors here, which you might find interesting & relevant.
posted by Tuwa at 2:54 PM on December 5, 2006

Babies still in the womb are in a surprisingly noisy environment -- external noise itself, but also the mother's voice, heartbeat, stomach rumbles, the sea-like noise of blood moving around and so on.

In a way it's surprising that anyone likes silence, as the most comforting state we've ever been in is so background-noise-alicious.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:34 PM on December 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have ADD too, and although I don't think I have this particular need, I can understand it.

For me, this kind of tendency has to do with controlling the boundaries of my environment. If the music is really loud, for example, then I control my atmosphere, and I'm not subjected to any noises beyond it. Which means, what would cause a huge distraction to "normal" people (the music) is actually a means of shutting out outside distraction for ADD people.

It's pretty rare for me to do anything in silence. Actually just trying to imagine it is difficult.
posted by loiseau at 4:35 PM on December 5, 2006

what koolkat said -- I absolutely NEED a fan blowing on me in order to fall asleep. The breeze and the soft noise are essential. Additionally, it is MUCH easier for me to fall asleep when the TV is on -- doesn't even have to be loud enough to really hear it, just as long as the warm, glowing light is there.
posted by davidmsc at 6:39 PM on December 5, 2006

My wife's the same way. She has the TV on in the background whenever she's reading/studying. She also needs a TV or fan running to sleep easily. Though not to the same degree, I'm a bit the same way. (and I'm the one with ADD tendencies)

I've always thought of it in the same terms as white noise. Predictable, regular noise that masks potentially distracting, irregular sounds. Whatever works. You're not weird. (and your boyfriend will adjust. Guys everywhere put up with far worse for nookie.)
posted by braintoast at 6:31 AM on December 6, 2006

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