Trying to figure out how to live with this

by Meredith
(Pittsburgh)

I'm an adult with very strong sensitivities to certain sounds, and I struggle with managing it on a daily basis. I don't know if it is considered "SPD" - I was never tested as a child. As a young child (until about age 11) I was very sensitive to loud noises, like sirens, smoke alarms, and the vacuum cleaner. If our school announced a fire drill, I'd plug my ears all day in nervous anticipation of the alarm. I couldn't be in the same room as the vacuum.


While I'm still sensitive to loud noises, around age 12 my anxiety shifted and now my dominant problem is a sensitivity to noises like chewing and sniffing. Really, it's problematic. My coworkers chew gum in the afternoons, after lunch, and I have to put in earplugs to avoid being driven insane by the sound. I don't want them to know I'm doing that, since it seems crazy. I'm the same around my parents, for some reason I have a hypersensitivity to their noises, far greater than that of the general populations. The sound of them eating makes my anxiety go through the roof. I often wear earplugs during meals with them, or if they're sick and sniffling a lot or have a nasal quality to their voice, I need the earplugs again. They don't know I do this (my hair covers my ears) and I can still hear them talk through the earplugs, I just can't hear the sniffs and lip-smacking noise.

It's really ridiculous. I bring earplugs with me in my pocket everywhere I go, because the idea of being caught on a bus, in a movie, or in a meeting with a person chewing gum is honestly terrifying. If I don't have a way to block the noise, my breathing quickens, my heart races, I get edgy and irritable, and try to leave the situation if I can - a true "fight-or-flight" response.

I'm also very sensitive to sounds coming from my upstairs neighbors' apartment. Just hearing their footsteps above me can get me anxious - when I know they're home, sometimes I get nervous anticipating that they will turn music on and it will bother me. they've only played REALLY loud music 5 times or so, but I get so upset when they do, and then I spend time worrying that they'll do it again.

To some extent, my sound sensitivity partially rules my life. That isn't really true - I have a masters degree, a job, a boyfriend of almost three years, and a lot of happy experiences. But it's always in the back of my mind - "bring earplugs, you never know if you might need them" - and it makes it harder for me to enjoy movies in theatres, a conversation with my family....I just have a higher level of anxiety on a daily basis than most people, but it's totally related to noise. I'm actually very calm other than this.

Anyway, I have no idea what to do about this. I'm pretty much resigned to it being my life. I've heard people say not to use earplugs, because once you do it is so hard to stop, but we're way past that now. Sometimes I try to not use them, and just breathe deeply or focus on something else, but it's nearly impossible. The sounds just push into my brain and I can't ignore them.

Just wanted to share my story. Sometimes I wonder if I should bring it up with a doctor, but I never know if that would help, or if they'd send me to a psychiatrist or something. But I feel validated reading other people's stories, knowing I'm not alone.

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Mar 14, 2015
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fsafsaf
by: Anonymous

try having periment tinnitus, this is absolutely nothing compared to this.

Feb 14, 2012
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Wearing Earplugs
by: Anonymous

Im so glad to have found this website. Its comforting knowing that there are others that wear earplugs on a day to day basis like me. I have found that hearos seem to be the most comfortable and have the highest reduction of noise while still keeping voices crisply intact.
Wearing earplugs has kept me sane in seemingly insane places. I work at an afterschool daycare and kids scream and yell. without earplugs I couldnt make it!

Tai chi helps too
bose qc-15 headphones rock too.

Dec 01, 2011
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Trying to stay married
by:

You wrote, "The sounds just push in to my brain and i can't ignore them." That is exactly what it is like!

I almost explode with rage at the sound of anyone chewing anything, or drinking noises- especially slurping of hot drinks or the sound when someone is sucking remnants of liquid up through ice. I become immobilized at the sound of cutlery scraping down a bowl, get very irritated when people continually clear their throat, need to steer clear of people with repetitive speech patterns or lazy grammar/enunciation, can smell when someone has sneezed (smells like squashed ants) or is wearing sunscreen that has gone off (absolutely putrid and lots of people have no idea it has gone off). I need to leave the house when my husband applies deodorant and if I let him get too close to me at the end of the day I can smell what he had for lunch. Sadly, kissing my husband is terrifying because i'm terrified that i will gag at the smell or taste or texture of any lingering food. I can't handle my hair on my face or touching my husband's hair if he has not washed it.

About 6 months ago i had to trade down from a car i was quite happy to drive to a more affordable car. Driving my new car is very stressful because i don't like the feel of the carpet under my feet and i also don't like to wear shoes when driving. I feel like i need to wash my feet after i get out of my car even though it is not dirty. The outside traffic is too loud and torments the hell out me to the point that i can barely speak while driving. I can't seem to sit comfortably and every bump is magnified and I get sweaty from the discomfort and feel gross by the time i arrive anywhere. I can't seem to explain to my husband that my irritation with the car is not because it doesn't look as new as my other one but because it a sensory journey through hell each time I drive it. For me, it is worth the extra money to relieve this daily stress.

I need to light candles, play soft music and have the house clear of all clutter every evening so that i can wind down from the stress of the day. I used to think the stress was just from my job and my irritation with my husband for not trying to accommodate my 'preferences' in relation to his behaviours that irritate me. I always knew his behaviours were in the normal range and he should not have to change them and could not understand or explain to him just how intensely yet irrationally affected I am by these things. I still can't but am finally accessing the help of a psychologist who suggested i am a 'good fit' for SPD and who is helping me to develop ways to manage and to communicate my experience of life to my husband so that together we may develop strategies to live more harmoniously together.

Jun 29, 2011
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earplugs are good
by: Sundew

I thought I was the only one who carried earplugs with me everywhere. I use them even though the feeling of them touching my ears drives me crazy, because the sounds are even worse. The sound of other people's normal chewing or breathing can drive me crazy. It's nice to hear that we're not alone in this - thank you for taking the time to write your experiences. I don't feel quite so strange about it now.

Feb 12, 2011
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hope ARCANE
by: Anonymous

To you all my sympathy for your sofference. do not lose hope you are special people. God bless your life and help you.

Feb 12, 2011
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Sound Sensitivities
by: Anonymous

You are not alone and I know exactly how you feel but I believe eventually there will be something found that will help people like us be able to manage the extreme discomfort this causes us in our daily lives.

I have had this since about the same age as you and I am now 53 years old. I too constantly struggle on a day to day basis and usually find sanctuary by just being at home. I have invested in cordless headphones for at home when the neighbors are noisy and I can put on either music I like or a plug into the TV and at least only hear what I want to and still walk around or go outside in the yard. I am fortunate that my 3 children are supportive and understand as well as my few friends that I have.

Work is my worst enemy as the constant sounds of people chewing gum, apples, talking loud (certain tones of voices bother me) and all the office equipment constantly causing me pain, anxiety and the feeling of just wanting to scream or run away.

I currently am seeing a psychiatrist who has been very supportive and we are working at finding an occupational therapist that works specifically with adults. I also take medication because this causes a lot of depression over the things I can't do, as well as feeling anxious and the panic attacks when I can't remove myself from certain sounds.

I hope you actively search for and can find a good therapist/psychiatrist who understands this and knows it is "real" disorder. Just being able to talk to a professional that can give you some help with or without medication and maybe refer you to someone who can work with you.

Also look into Misophonia it has a lot of information about sound sensitivities (which is a similar disorder )

Never give up hope - I think we are special people that have senses that are just heightened - unfortunately to our disadvantage.

Take care of yourself
Cathy

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