Noise anxiety is a condition which is characterized by an extreme sensitivity to noise. Someone with noise anxiety suffers a variety of stress and anxiety related emotions when he or she is exposed to certain types of noises; these emotions can range from a general sense of uneasiness to aggression. Living with noise anxiety can be extremely frustrating, and the condition can be difficult to treat; typically the assistance of a skilled therapist is required.
A very general term, noise anxiety is sometimes used to describe a variety of different conditions. For some people with anxiety disorders, certain loud noises — or even extended periods of silence — can cause anxiety to build; phonophobia is a fear of loud noises. A condition sometimes called misophonia is an intolerance to certain sounds, usually causing an intense reaction like rage. Hyperacusis, which can have many causes, is an over-sensitivity to noises in a certain auditory range, sometimes causing pain or stress.
Some people are more at risk for noise anxiety than others. People suffering from depression or anxiety are more likely to develop a general noise anxiety, as are women and introverts. The condition can emerge at any time, often in response to an increase of stress. The noise induced anxiety can, in turn, heighten the sense of stress and unease, thereby making the sufferer even more anxious, depressed, or upset. This can contribute to a generally distressed mental state which can be problematic for the sufferer.
A wide variety of noises can contribute to noise anxiety, and the triggers seem to be unique to the individual and to the specific medical condition. For many people, the noises are repetitive or chronic, and the patient may feel a lack of control over them. Some commonly cited sources of noise anxiety include: chewing, voices, televisions and radios, and appliances, among many others. For someone with an anxiety disorder, such noises may cause stress or withdrawal; someone with misophonia might fly into a rage.
For someone with noise anxiety, sounds often seem amplified, and there may be a sense that sounds are being created deliberately with the intent of annoying or upsetting the sufferer. For example, someone who is sensitive to the sound of pet grooming may grow angry at cats and dogs who settle down to groom nearby, even though the animals may actually be demonstrating trust or affection by grooming in the vicinity.
Treatment for noise anxiety can vary, depending on the underlying cause. For some people, wearing earplugs and noise canceling headphones can help to dampen the sounds which cause distress, and headphones can also be used to listen to soothing or calming noises which the sufferer does have control over. People with hyperacusis may benefit from broadband noise or pink noise therapy. For those with an underlying anxiety disorder, it may be a good idea to seek other forms of therapy to help them learn to cope with noise anxiety and to reduce the severity of the effects.