Does That Sound LOUD to You?

“Sudden loud noises hurt my ears - like a dentist’s drill hitting a nerve... High-pitched continuous noise, such as bathroom vent fans or hair dryers, are annoying. I have two choices: 1) turn my ears on and get deluged with sound or 2) shut my ears off.”

-Temple Grandin, ‘An Inside View of Autism’, 1992.

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Does That Sound LOUD to You?

 

I live in a unique community. It’s called an airpark because it serves as a private airport. There’s a 4000’ lighted runway with taxiways on either end of it and these lead to 700 hangar homes. You can literally drive your airplane to your house and park it in the backyard or store it in your hangar.

Very unique!

Within my community, there are also about 1300 additional non-hangar homes scattered around the community, and we have a golf course, restaurant, hair salon, a handful of small businesses, several parks, and other common areas of the community. It’s like a small village with over 5000 residents in total. For the most part, I love living in my little piece of paradise. It’s lively and remarkable…

…but, sometimes it can be very, very noisy.

For someone like me, who is sensitive to loud sounds, noisy surroundings are incredibly disruptive and challenging.

My husband is a pilot, and we have always lived near small airports, so he could have access to flying. I have grown accustomed to living around the sounds of aviation.

The clicking, whining, and revving of mechanical noises caused by the rotation of engine parts. The woofing, howling and whirling of aerodynamic noises caused by the airflow over the surfaces of airplanes. And the buzzing, chiming, and thudding of aircraft system noises when airplanes and other aircraft are being powered.

Honestly, I don’t mind the sounds of aviation. Most of the time, to me, these feel like typical low-frequency noises and have become part of my everyday life.

 What bothers me are the continuous, intermittent or impulsive noises in my community.

The
GUTTERAL, POPPING, ROAR
of a motorcycle.

The incessant,
GROWLING, DRONE
of a lawn mower.

The ear piercing,
VIBRATING, SHRILL
of power tools.

Aircraft sounds are soft whispers compared to these monsters. And that is exactly what these noises feel like to me...

MONSTERS!

When I hear any of these penetrating sounds, my body cringes, my muscles tense, and I feel deep anxiety in the pit of my stomach. It feels so intense that I’m almost afraid and I want to flee from it.

The monster closes in on its prey.

Based on the research I’ve done on sound sensitivity, some people are affected by sound so much that it can influence their sensory processing, moods and emotions, and/or they’re behaviors. There are several different conditions that may cause someone to hear sounds more intensely than the typical person.

 

1 Hyperacusis: a collapsed tolerance to normal environmental sounds. Ears also lose most of their dynamic range-the ability of the ear to deal with quick shifts in sound loudness.

What are normal environmental sounds? What one person thinks is a ‘normal’ sound (such as; the sound of an airplane to someone who lives near an airport) may be different from what the next person thinks (because they only hear aircraft sounds occasionally and these are more disruptive to them).

Apparently, Hyperacusis is linked to some other conditions and diseases, such as Bell’s palsy, Chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Depression, and Autism. Additionally, Hyperacusis is seen in patients who have experienced a head trauma, such as an airbag deployment, surgery to the jaw or face, or a viral infection of the inner ear.

I’ve never had head trauma that I know of, although the 70’s style of parenting that my parents used was pretty loosey-goosey. Never have I had face surgery, nor have I had any acute infections of the ear. I am being treated for Depression, but I hardly think my sound sensitivity is linked to that.

2 Recruitment: is the growth of loudness for sounds in the frequency range of a person who has hearing loss. When the decibel level in this frequency range increases quickly, it causes discomfort.

I get my ears tested fairly regularly, so this condition doesn’t make sense in my situation. I’ve always tested in an average to above average range and usually, I can hear too well!

Want to learn more about Recruitment? Follow this link.

3 Misophonia: is hatred of sound, but a person with misophonia does not simply hate all sound. People with misophonia have specific symptoms and triggers and are sensitive to only certain sounds and occasionally to visual triggers.

I’m not sure about this one. Do I really detest the sound of a motorcycle that much? Do I hate lawnmower noise enough that I get angry and/or to the point where it changes my mood and behavior? Sometimes. It seems like this condition has a strong emotional core to it. I really don’t feel anything about motorcycles, though. I have no deep seeded memories involving motorcycles either. I just simply can’t stand the sound they make. It’s obnoxious, disrupts the peacefulness in the air, and it hurts my ears.

Read an interesting article about Misophonia here.

4 Auditory Hypersensitivity: sound sensitive to specific frequencies heard at loud levels.  These frequencies are typically labeled 'problem' frequencies…can tolerate some sound at normal or even loud volumes but some frequencies are difficult to tolerable.

Now, that sounds exactly like what I experience. But, there's that word again...normal.

Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect behavior and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.

For someone like me, who is overly-audio sensitive and on the Autism Spectrum, I sometimes experience, at one time, any and all of the following; noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled. May be able to hear conversations in the distance. Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

Some experts would say that “Audio hypersensitivity has to do with our perception of sound rather than our hearing of sound.” Interesting.

Whatever you want to label it, I feel I have an aversion to certain sounds in my environment and I truly believe it's because my brain has difficulty processing these noises. They are way too loud and when I experience them, my entire body struggles to stay calm. Will I let that monster intimidate me?

NO WAY!

Just recognizing all of this encourages me to become aware of the noises that bother me when they’re happening. Also, if possible, I want to try and take notice of how my body feels during these experiences, and learn ways to process the noises in a more mindful, less stressful way. I’ll be writing more about ways to cope with overly sensitive experiences in my future blogs. In the meantime…stay tuned for my next sound off!

sound off (about something) To express an opinion, especially a complaint, loudly and intensely.

-idioms.thefreedictionary.com-

       

Tracy Bryan writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12.

She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families. She also writes a blog for adults and one for kids aged 7-12 called The Awesomeness Blog.

Visit her website welcome page, and on Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter.

Currently, Tracy and her daughter Jade are collaborating on a picture book series together about neurodiversity called Spectrum. Learn more here!

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Images by Freelance Graphic Artist

Larissa Kulik

(licensed from Shutterstock.com)

   

Comments

  1. What a wonderful and helpful post Tracy.
    When working in the classrooms in the past years, I had to adjust my feelings around the noise of constant chatter. It took me a long time to get use to. I worked in many classrooms where there were many students with Autism and we provided cordless head phones for them in certain situations. I understood their pain at times.
    Noises at home that bother me are lawnmowers, especially early in the morning. I understand one must do their yard work early in the mornings. Where we live, the afternoons are terribly hot.
    I’m not a fan of the booming music that comes from people’s car stereos. You know, the sound that makes your chest thump? I always wonder how they can stand it? With that being said, I love to go to concerts and that doesn’t bother me. Go figure. Ha! :)

    Thanks again for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful upcoming weekend!
    Rosie

    1. Tracy Bryan says:

      Thanks Rosie:) Funny enough, constant chatter in a classroom doesn’t bother me as long as its consistent-now, sudden squeals-YIKES!
      I CAN’T STAND LAWNMOWERS!!!! I wish our culture was more relaxed and just let everything grow over with wildflowers! I know that’s not realistic, but sometimes I just want to live like a garden gnome:) Thanks for stopping by pal!

  2. Julie Gorges says:

    What bugs me? The bathroom exhaust fan droning on and on. I always have to turn it off ASAP because it gets on my nerves. Excellent and informative article!

    1. Tracy Bryan says:

      LOL! Yah, that is annoying! And the ones in hotel rooms always seem that much louder, no?! (Even the upscale hotels) Thanks for your input Julie:)

  3. James Milson says:

    I have had constant ringing in my ears for several years which has always been so down the “issues list” that doctors have never gotten around to it to address it, so just rings on. Maybe because of that, maybe not, I can honestly say that there is only one sound/noise in the world that ever bothers me — the droning on, forever sound of leaf blowers in Autumn! I grew up with a leaf rake in my hands and never stopped. Fall used to be a quiet, peaceful time, and now often reduced to noise. Whoever invented leaf blowers should be drug out into the street and pelted with pinecones and sweetgum balls. LOL!

    1. Tracy Bryan says:

      A dog walking friend of mine just had vertigo for several because of a ringing.The doctor said she had crystals in her ears that needed draining…I never knew this was a thing. Maybe your ringing is that…or you’ve been doing too much jewelry crafting! (sorry, that was a bad Dad joke!)

  4. Another fantastic informative article Tracy. If lawn mowers bug you the most I can provide the relief. Come and live here. The kangaroos keep our paddock grass down most of the year. We only need to mow a couple of time in Summer, that’s it, never throughout the rest of the year, and with all our neighbours on 10-15 acres, we are so far apart, the noise from their mowers is barely audible, (when they have to mow too). It is so quiet and peaceful out here in the country the only sounds you hear are the birds. But I do understand, if I stay at my mum’s place in Sydney in the suburbs, the noise drives me crazy!
    Classroom noise is a tricky one. I have taught in classrooms where the kids work best with music playing in the background, or with ‘busy’ chatter, but other classes have needed total silence. It is so important to take in the needs of the students and be aware of particular learning styles. Used to mix it up where I could but there is always one student that has trouble with any noise. Headphones are a lifesaver.

  5. Cat Michaels says:

    Tracy, Love your visuals, animated words, and descriptions of your personal world of sounding off! When I worked with students on the autism spectrum, I learned to speak softly and minimize visual and auditory distractions. I have a keen sense of hearing, so loud noises hurt my ears. (Being stuck in traffic next to a car with radio booming rap or hard rock is a nightmare!)

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