Trying to figure out how to live with this
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.