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The Highly Sensitive Person and Coping With Noise Sensitivities

Peter learned he was an HSP in 1997. As a student of sensitivity, he has met 100s of HSPs in person and writes extensively about the trait.

Why am I highly sensitive to noises?

Why am I highly sensitive to noises?

Noise and the HSP: A Common Source of Overstimulation

When you're a highly sensitive person (or HSP), noise can be an extremely invasive, distressing, and overstimulating part of life.

In the course of learning about the deeper intricacies of being highly sensitive, it's important to remember that the trait is about a lot more than emotional and psychological sensitivities. A major part of what can make life challenging for HSPs comes from our surrounding environment in the form of various physical sensitivities.

Everybody is sensitive to noise—to a degree. For HSPs, however, noise can be a pervasive and persistent issue that makes life difficult and even unpleasant. Noise sensitivities show up in myriad different ways for different HSPs; in this article, we'll examine some of the ways intrusive noises affect us... as well as what we can do about them.

It is unclear whether or not the average HSP actually has a more acute sense of hearing than the rest of the world, so for this article, I'll primarily focus on the fact that we tend to notice what we hear far more than most people. And even if you're not an HSP—but tend to be sensitive when it comes to sound—this article may offer you some helpful tips, anyway.


Being a Highly Sensitive Person

It's very important to understand that being an HSP is about a lot more than just "getting your feelings hurt easily" or being "emotionally fragile."

This page is part of a growing series of articles focusing on "HSP wellness"; that is, exploring daily practical ways to make life easier and more enjoyable when you're a highly sensitive person.

Please remember that "high sensitivity" is not a "diagnosis", and there is no "cure" for it. Rather, it is part of the normal spectrum of human emotions, and it affects approximately 15-20% of the world's population, regardless of gender, age, race or nationality.

Mechanical and Electronic Nuisance Sounds

Repetitive mechanical or electronic noise is one form of sound intrusion that bothers many HSPs, often to the point of "driving them to distraction." This type of noise can be particularly troublesome in work environments where we generally have less control over our surroundings and may not be able to just get up and move to a less noisy location.

An additional challenge is that many of the people around us do not actually hear these sounds—or are not bothered by them—which can lead to the HSP being perceived as "overly finicky" or "high maintenance."

Some good examples of intrusive mechanical and electronic include:

  • The faint buzzing sound of fluorescent light fixtures. Although too subtle for most people to notice, they are often a source of irritation for HSPs.
  • A squeaking fan in the air conditioner outside the window, or even off in the distance. I used to live in Texas, where the sound of air conditioners running was a normal part of summer, and the sound of a squeaky fan somewhere in the neighborhood could keep me awake for hours on summer nights.
  • A computer fan that makes a high-pitched whine can be a tremendous distraction. It becomes even worse if there's a slight change in its pitch, suggesting that fans might be ready to break down.
  • The ticking of an alarm clock (although some—including myself—actually find it comforting) bothers many HSPs.
  • An oversensitive car alarm in the neighborhood going off several times a day. Although this is an annoyance for most people, non-HSPs seem better able to "tune out" such a sound.
  • An unbalanced ceiling fan that "clicks" or grinds slightly when it runs. I used to have one in my bedroom that ran quietly enough, but it would "sway" slightly, causing the chain that controlled the light to make a sound.
  • The sound of a refrigerator compressor, especially one that runs unevenly, like it's threatening to go out.

Noise Sensitivity Is Often an Inherent Part of Being an HSP

In her self-test for high sensitivity, Dr. Elaine Aron includes a number of questions that relate directly to the issue of being sensitive to noise.

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First of all, if you combine the idea that an HSP is "easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input" and seems "to be aware of subtleties in their environment," a high level of awareness of sounds is simply a natural extension of the core trait.

In addition, one item on Dr. Aron's sensitivity inventory literally reads, "I am made uncomfortable by loud noises," and a total of six other questions directly or indirectly address the issue of noticing, being bothered by or startled by various sounds... suggesting that noise sensitivity is very much part of the trait.

Of course, sound sensitivity is not all bad. Sometimes it means HSPs are aware of something that could become a problem—from mice trying to get into the attic to a refrigerator compressor on its last legs—before other people and can thus take appropriate action before there's a serious problem.

HSPs and Noise: Annoying "Organic" and Intermittent Sounds

There are also a number of more "organic" or intermittent noises that can be a great source of distraction and distress for HSPs. Consider these, for example:

  • A neighborhood dog that seems to eternally bark at everything, including its own shadow. Of course, this is a noise that probably bugs most people... but it's generally much easier for a non-HSP to "tune it out," after a while.
  • Having upstairs neighbors whose footsteps are clearly audible as they walk back and forth—maybe there are certain boards in their floor that squeak.
  • The sound of leaf blowers and lawn mowers being used nearby—or even in the distance. Sometimes a sound you can "barely hear" can be the most annoying.
  • Music being played in the apartment or house next door. Again, not necessarily just LOUD music.
  • The sound of dishwashers and washing machines through the walls or ceilings. Sometimes it can even be your own.
  • Traffic on a road nearby—especially the sound of sirens from police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.
  • A housemate or partner/lover who tends to snore loudly.
  • The rope on the neighbor's metal flagpole, which beats against the pole every time there's a strong wind.
  • And even as I write this, our whole-house water softener is "making brine," a noisy process that only happens about once a week, for 30-45 minutes.

Are You Sensitive to Environmental Sounds?

Now, we've looked at a couple of different categories of sounds. How do they affect you? You can also leave further comments below the poll.


Pause for Contemplation

Now that we've covered some different types of sounds that often are a source of distress to noise-sensitive HSPs, what sort of noises bother you?

Leave a comment and share your experience with other readers!

The article continues below the comment section!

Why Do HSPs Have "Issues" With Noise?

So what is the actual problem with noise when you’re a highly sensitive person?

Because HSPs notice the noise—and then tend to “process it deeply”—these sounds start eating away at our “available bandwidth” for living. You might describe it by saying that they start robbing us of our ability to have the “quiet enjoyment” of our life. After a while—when combined with all the other challenges life throws at us—the noise starts to become overstimulating. Of course, when we become overstimulated, we become less effective in the world, not to mention grumpy and irritable.

As a secondary issue, when noise does overstimulate us, we also face criticism from those around us, who might make hurtful statements about our being “too sensitive.”

Are we "too" sensitive?

Well, we really don't have a choice... and the word "too" is a matter of perception. The question can't really be answered honestly because we don't actually have a choice in the matter. As a metaphor, think of a radio. The radio can't "choose" whether or not to receive a signal—it simply does. What we can do, as HSPs, is learn life skills to help us manage the overstimulating effect of environmental noise pollution.

How HSPs Can Best Deal With Environmental Noise

The good news is that there are things HSPs can do to minimize the intrusion of annoying and overstimulating noise.

Of course, remedies will tend to depend somewhat on individual situations. When eternally generated noise is interfering with our sleep, usually the best thing we can do is try to muffle it. There are two approaches we can take: (1) do our best to sound insulate our space and (2) invest in a really good "white noise machine," or CDs/MP3s with pleasant sounds designed to override abrasive sounds.

I use the term "white noise" non-scientifically here, simply to mean something we can deliberately put in the "foreground" of our soundscapes in order to help muffle the background that's bothering us.

Personally, I prefer environmental "rain" or "wave" sounds, which can be very effective in drowning out background irritants while adding a pleasant and relaxing sound to our foreground.

Some HSPs prefer to use soothing meditative music, maybe flute or piano, to listen to while going to sleep. Even though music is less effective in drowning out annoying sounds, it does tend to serve as a way to "re-focus" our listening attention from the annoying background to our own positively generated foreground. I have often listened to peaceful music while reading before going to sleep... only to discover that I fell asleep with the music on!

Shown below is another personal favorite CD; of course, there are many other ways to create a beautiful, relaxing and "HSP-friendly" sound environment.

Managing the Extreme HSP "Startle Reflex"

No discussion of HSPs and noise sensitivity would be complete without mentioning the issue of having an "elevated startle reflex."

It's very common for this to be an issue—you're not aware that someone has walked up behind you; then they touch your shoulder or say something (even quite softly), and next thing you know, you have to be peeled off the ceiling, while your heart pounds wildly. Sound familiar?

It probably does, as it does for many HSPs. In fact, one of the questions on Elaine Aron's sensitivity self-test reads, "I startle easily."

Of course, there's nothing we can do about having an extreme startle reflex—the best countermeasure is simply to be aware and mindful of our surroundings so things don't sneak up on us so easily.

We can also use that same mindfulness to try to put ourselves in physical places where we have more control over what's behind us, even if we can't see it. We can choose to sit in places where we have the wall at our back or place our work table in such a location that there's not a traffic way behind us. If we tend to get startled by a suddenly ringing telephone, we can turn the ringer volume way down so the noise doesn't sound quite as intrusive. Similarly, we can choose a "soft" ringtone for our cell phones so they don't startle us as much.

When You Need Serious Noise Reduction

For the most pervasive and "intrusive" sounds, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is invest in a pair of really excellent noise-canceling headphones. This is one area in which I have found that quality (and the attendant price, alas) really DOES matter, but it can be oh-so-worth it!

I have spent a fair bit of time exploring ways to block out noise, be it from the air conditioner I used to have outside my window or just things like airplane noise while traveling or being in public spaces. There are lots of "budget" ways to go, but in the long run, they really don't work well for HSPs.

Earplugs—even ostensibly "good" ones—only block out so much background noise. But frankly? They are unpleasant to wear. Even the soft, foamy ones that configure to your ear are still bothersome. I have sensitive ears (many HSPs do), and I'm not talking about noise here.

There are also "ear bud" and "lightweight" earphones that claim to be noise-reducing, but my experience—which is backed up by a number of other folks I've talked to—is that they just don't do a particularly great job. And they may be light, but they are not that comfortable... and you'll find yourself "fidgeting" with them quite a lot. Are they less expensive? Absolutely!

For Sensitive Ears: The BEST Noise Canceling Headphones

As mentioned previously, if you are serious about creating your own personal "oasis of peace," your very best bet might be to invest in a pair of high-quality noise-cancelling headphones. I've looked at and tested others, but Bose really has this particular technology figured out. Yes, you may end up spending almost $300.00, but I can't overstate the importance of NOT trying to cut corners here.

I personally have owned and used a couple of the high-end Bose models; for me, they are especially important for travel.

Like much top brand audio gear, you may not be able to find these on "deep sale" at some big-box store; Amazon's price seems about as good as any.

Now, as an HSP, I do want to share one important piece of information: The particular type of technology used in authentic (as in, it actually works) noise-cancelling equipment can feel a little "unusual" or even "creepy" until you get used to it.

When the system is active and you're wearing them for the first time, it might feel like there is a slight pressure on your ears. For someone with sensitive ears, that might feel a little "alarming" at first (it did, for me), but it's not painful, it's perfectly natural, and it actually doesn't take very long to get used to.

General Resources for the Highly Sensitive Person

Below are a variety of helpful websites for HSPs, where you can find more information and learn about the trait.

  • Dr. Elaine Aron's Web Site
    Elaine Aron did the original research that led to the discovery that high sensitivity is an inborn neurological trait, not a "psychological issue." She wrote the best selling book "The Highly Sensitive Person" in 1996.
  • Dr. Ted Zeff's Web Site
    Ted Zeff is an author and expert on high sensitivity who specializes in understanding and helping highly sensitive men.
  • The HSP Bookstore
    Online bookstore with hundreds of titles hand picked for their relevance to the highly sensitive-- the largest selection in one place on the web.
  • Douglas Eby's High Sensitivity site
    Part of the Talent Development Resources network, this site features hundreds of articles and links on the topics of being highly sensitive and creative.

We Live in a Noisy World!

We live in a sound-filled world, and it seems to be getting louder every day... and there is really no getting away from that. When you're a highly sensitive person, this "wall of noise" can feel quite overstimulating and distracting.

However, we can't expect the world to change to accommodate our needs for quiet surroundings. Instead, the onus falls on us to create our own peaceful "oases"—real or virtual— where we can relax during those times when we don't have to engage with the noisy world. We can also make "less noisy" choices when it comes to lifestyle, places to live, work and so on.

We can help ourselves by striving to be aware of our surroundings and by learning how to manage our immediate environments and our lives in such a way that the noise around us is kept at a "dull roar" rather than an outright din.

Thank You!

Thank you for reading this article about HSPs and noise sensitivity. Comments and feedback are always welcomed!

If you found this article useful or helpful, please share it with others. On the left, you'll find some nifty "social media share" buttons to help you do so.

Why do I ask? The more the world knows about and understands high sensitivity, the easier our lives—as HSPs—will be!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: What if you are highly sensitive to a noise that's repetitive in the car so headphones and earplugs would only create a dangerous driving situation? How do we teach ourselves to tolerate the noise during these times? I get a sense of panic every time I hear the noise but its nothing fixable within the car.

Answer: That's a particularly tricky situation, as there is functionally little you can do. I used to have a car that had a particular rattle that drove me batty... and I found the only way to effectively cope was to remind myself that I was in a TEMPORARY situation that had a finite end (when the car stopped). Only a small help, but a little bit, all the same.

Question: Often with sudden sounds, I actually feel pain. For example, if the radiator bangs or a car horn honks, I can not only be startled, I can actually feel pain in my head and sometimes end up in tears. I wonder if other Highly Sensitive Persons experience this and if it is common?

Answer: I can definitely relate to this, although I have no idea whether it's a common thing for HSPs. I grew up in a house my parents were quite literally building around us, even while we lived there. The sound of a power saw cutting wood literally would cause pain like the saw blade was cutting into my HEAD. Whether there is any truth to this or not, a friend who's a neurosurgeon suggested that I simply was having an uncommonly hard time metabolizing the jolt of adrenaline from hearing powerful and startling sounds.

© 2013 Peter Messerschmidt

Which Sounds Affect You The Most?

Nana on July 01, 2020:

A high pitched screaming kid is tops on my list. They seem to hit all the high notes. I feel like nails are piercing into my ears. I cover my ears and hold my head.

Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend, WA, USA on September 10, 2018:

Sorry about the intrusion of the air conditioner Stephanie, but I can totally relate! I used to live in Texas where air conditioners were a fact of life... and things like an unbalanced fan on my neighbor's house would drive me nuts!

Glad you found the article useful!

Stephanie Schatt on August 30, 2018:

I haven't finished the third paragraph and already, the air conditioner I can usually tolerate has become unbearable. I'm turning it off and finishing this article. Your articles are well worth it. Thank you!

KRez on August 26, 2018:

Oh my God... I can't use my ps3 because they humming sound it makes. Nobody else can even hear it.

Our fire alarm's battery was dying and it beeped every 15 minutes for 4 months. After about a month my boyfriend didn't even hear it anymore and I was making plans on how to reach it so I could rip it off the wall and smash it with a hammer.

And the extreme startle response... YES, my dad and 2 ex-boy friends made it their lives missions to startle me until I got used to it and didn't startle anymore, all it did was give me constant mini heart attacks and make me feel physically and emotionally burned out by constantly being scared.

Meg on August 26, 2018:

I use a fan for white noise for sleeping (as long as it doesn't make any extra noises on its own). When it oscillates, it makes the cord to my window blinds bump against the wall when the fan is blowing that direction... that ticking sound drives me nuts, so I have to hang the cord up & out of the way of the fan... I also had a clock/sound machine for awhile - I like thr sound of fountains, streams, etc., but in the "babbling brook" sound, was able to hear the repeat or loop, so my brain focused on that instead... couldn't listen to it anymore. Love outdoor sounds though - from katydids to lawnmowers to semis in the distance on the highway... love them all... so weird.

Stephanie on August 26, 2018:

I've learned to use a fan at night to block out intermittent sounds like traffic, dogs, people outside, etc. It took a long time to get used to but it's worth being able to block out the gazillion little sounds that always woke me up or kept me from getting into a deep sleep!

One of my major issues with background noise is that i sometimes have difficulty focusing on what people are saying because i'm so distracted by the background noise. It typucally happens when someone makes an out of the blue remark or when they first initiate a conversation and i'm not focussed on them. My husband teases me about selective hearing but i really don't hear him or i have a delay processing what he said because all the other noises are making me 'deaf'. Does that make sense to anyone else? I've had my hearing tested and it's excellent, probably because i'm great at avoiding loud noise!

August on July 01, 2018:

I LOVE electronic, repetitive sounds, such as the sound of air conditioning or a fan. Right now I'm listening to "airplane cabin" on youtube with my noise cancelling headphones (which were $100--the author of the article suggests you splurge $300+ for headphones, but honestly I'm totally fine with these and I was also fine when I was using $30 Sony noise cancelling headphones). On the flipside, I DESPISE organic sounds. Coughing, sniffling, footsteps, chewing...all the bane of my existence -_-

daisy on March 12, 2018:

I have a very strange noise sensitivity that I wonder if anyone else has - when people (especially women) speak with a loud hissing S/sibilance. It absolutely drives me nuts.

Also, the sound of people sucking on their teeth after a meal. And (unfortunately), my husband's loud, heavy breathing.

Although I'm not too sure if all this is me being a HSP, or just Misophonia.

Maggy on August 19, 2017:

I can stand a lot of noises, I've had a child married and live in a rented appartment with lots of tenants around me, so their is noise all the time,

But for this past 14 years on and off as they keep saying they have fixed it we have had a fan noise in a room above our appartment it can be anything from rumbling rattling buzzing, it's driving me mad,

I've slept on the sofa for years took sleeping tablets earplugs don't work, I still hear the buzzing,

Now we have finally wrote to the envoirment people so we will see what they do,

They said it's not on even if I'm sensative and have lived here 20 years must I move because of it,

They know it's old,

Who said to live on the top is the best I don't think so, anymore

Missy on August 06, 2017:

Oh wow, its refreshing to know that other people going through this and there is actually a name for it!! I am extremely noise sensitive, a HSP and suffer from depressuon and anxiety. As I seek a quieter, calmer, peaceful and safe life; the noises get louder and I become more and more diatressed! My top of the list is squealing, screeching, screaming, whining kids!! I live where properties are lucky to be 300sqm and fences are low and then a family of 4 kids install a trampoline beside my fence line; and of course the parents allow their unruly kids to squeal for hours on end. All times of day and night!! I wake up to it, eat dinner to it, try to read a book, do my gardening, sleep in once in a while, none of this is possible!! I wish I could move, but that is costly and difficult to secure a rental in this highly competitive market. Next on my list is loud laughing, humans whistling, barking dogs, rev-ing cars, motorbikes, bouncing balls, neighbours music, ticking clocks, fridge sounds, dripping taps, long fingernails on a keyboard, air conditioners, whipper snippers, leaf blowers, drunken talk and people talking loudly on a phone call!!! I feel crazy....but many of these sounds are avofdable, much of these are because of the lack of consideration that people have for their fellow man and neighbours!!!

Stevie Hawkins on July 16, 2017:

I hate to hear doors being slammed, loud music, or low 'bassie' music, and the rumbling of traffic are the worst for me.

Over the last 9 years I have moved four times in an attempt to find a place quite enough for me. I'm not sure what to do for the best anymore ? Whether to find ways of blocking the noise out, or somehow, built up a resistance to it ???

Fuzzy on July 09, 2017:

Almost all kinds of people and their noise (especially screeching kids!!) & traffic noise bothers me. And white noise is NOISE...and it's irratating!

Betsy on June 28, 2017:

The list is LONG so I'll only name a few: screaming, squealing kids...heel thumpers in ANY direction in an apartment complex (thankfully I moved into a single dwelling, stand-alone house)...any kind of motorcycle NOISE...vibration buzzing noise of high tension wires or power substations (I'm extremely sensitive to EMF's or electromagnetic fields)...fireworks...cell phone yappers...people that won't STFU...street/highway traffic...high powered rifles at a shooting range...chainsaws...loud people...ETC

Deb on June 18, 2017:

Wow! I thought my husbands noise sensitivity was due to a high stress job, but after this article and reading comments, I believe he is an HSP. He is tolerant with consistant noises like a fan, but the dumpster divers who dig for cans in our apartment complex, as well as the shrill dog barking and little girl who is forced to practice violin, really drives him nuts. He runs around slamming windows shut and turns on "relaxation" music that's may or may not drown the noise. What can I do to help him? Is there anything I can do?!?!

Jackie-O on January 24, 2017:

What really bothers me is music and conversation that's not my own; or any other noise made by neighbors or by people in the street; or by those who seem just plain indifferent to others' comfort. My heart rate increases to the point where I am so anxious, I lose my appetite, become incapable of doing anything but just being fixated on the distress I feel, and want to just curl up in a ball and cry. I feel trapped and do not know what to do about it. I sometimes imagine myself going stark raving mad and wanting to die just to end the torture. I notice that the disturbance makes me feel angry---angry that other people are so inconsiderate, especially when I always take great pains to respect others' rights to peace and quiet.

ScoutMidwest on December 01, 2016:

I'm an HSP - constant mechanical sounds, like an AC fan, don't bother me as much as intermittent sounds - e.g. - an AC fan that cycles on and off. Although when a constant sound stops, I usually take a deep breath of relief. Organic sounds ten to really bother me - sniffling, for example. A person talking who really needs to clear their throat; certain types of voices - especially high pithched. Public places with high ceilings and lots of echos are very difficult for me. Driving on the highway with heavy truck traffic is also very hard.

LG on November 10, 2016:

Music. Music disturbs me more than anything in the world.

Ellen on September 06, 2016:

I'm glad to find I am not alone. I have moved from three apartments to a condo to a house, all with their own nuisances that drive me crazy and often prevent sleep. I went from hearing the neighbors do everything from vacuum to COUGH through the walls, to a parking lot production at the wee hours like ten, eleven, two, three am... people beeping key fobs every three minutes to people parking outside the garage for 20 minutes with the radio blaring. I now have a house and while I am learning to get used to some sounds - like children playing, birds chirping, dogs barking - but there are other things that could literally drive me insane. Like the people that drive by with their bass booming, the carpenter neighbor who drills and tosses wood planks around at nine or ten am, the dog who never shuts up, and my fan and heater. They both lightly thump an uneven pattern and it literally keeps me awake at night. I know most people don't mind these things. But they drive me nuts. What do I do? Move to the courtry??

Jenny Kind on August 31, 2016:

So where's the advice for coping? I'm very sensitive to noise - I just got off a plane which had a squealing screeching high pitched noise the entire flight. I even have noise canceling headphones but they were no help. It was so bad that I was cringing and barely able to keep from screaming out in pain. What are the techniques to cope with the noise? How can I live my life when I can barely stand any sound?

SuzyQ on August 15, 2016:

Oh boy...I've struggled with noise for so long. Noises that I can't control and that intrude into my home have created much anxiety. It is really difficult to drown out a barking dog or leaf blower. I've started to use self-compassion exercises and utilize Claire Weekes book on anxiety. These techniques help, but it is exhausting trying to keep calm all day with a neighbor's barking dog. May we all find peace.

hanna on February 14, 2016:

i don't know if i am HSP, but noise REALLY bothers me. when it's too loud (hate going to concerts without ear plugs, if i happen to be at one without plugs available i will put paper in my ears or be the girl standing with her fingers over her ears) - and when it's just intrusive. alarmclocks, ticking noises, clicking noises, snoring, loud breating, repetetive noises people make when sleeping, neighbour's music or chatting thorugh the walls ... eeeverything. i should really just not be living in a city ... :P

Kristina on November 17, 2015:

It's always such pleasure to find that I am not the only person that gets grumpy and angry easily by getting overly stimulated, especially by noise and sounds. My house mate has his alarm clock go off once, then he snoozes it - rinse and repeat, it goes off every 10 minutes for an hour.

Sophie on August 23, 2015:

Am currently in Paris where the people in bars sing and shout until 2-3 in the morning, impromptu motorbikes races are held at night, neighbours play music with amplifiers full blast at 7am, the church bells ring quarterly during the day and right now, on a Sunday afternoon, a neighbour is rehearsing on her cello... Even though she plays well, I am nearly at the end of my tether. All this despite wearing noise-cancelling headphones nearly 24 hours a day. There should be a right to silence - one day a week where noise is banned...

Betsy on August 13, 2015:

Other people's noise inside my apartment makes me livid. In several living situations this has been a huge problem for me. I have had to move multiple times because of it. At first I thought it was just overhead noise but recently I took a top floor apartment in a 2-family house and the downstairs owners thump through the house like elephants...heal thumpers!! It seems like they never stop moving!! I can not understand why people can't sit still and/or why they have to be constantly walking or moving around!! I decided to take this place after the landlord told me there was 3-4 feet of noise proof insulation in their ceiling (my floor) because this house used to be a bar/restaurant and the owners lived upstairs with their kids. Well, if that is soundproofing, they got ripped off!! I am again beside myself

Queirdkus Ω Ibidem from Sitting on the Rug on August 02, 2015:

It is only recently that I realized, after understanding that I am actually what you call an HSP, that I discovered I could actually befriend Noise.

Although I have always mostly been rattled by noise in the past, including the ticking of the wall clock and the alternating conk of the ref motor, especially during my silent sitting, I came to a place where Noise actually made itself felt as a comforting Presence, telling me that here and now is a reality where Love IS ceratin and secure.

Lindsey on July 27, 2015:

Something that makes me absolutely crazy is when people talk with food in their mouth or just eat with their mouth open. I am super sensitive to sound in the morning, right when I wake up. I can handle the bass in music more then the treble. Treble makes me on edge while I can feel the bass in a more pleasant way. Multiple conversations are difficult for me. If someone is trying to talk to me while other people are talking right next to me or nearby, I cannot shut out the other people's voices. It is very distracting.

Alii M Bek on July 27, 2015:

the bass of a neighbor's stereo or tv, even if the music isn't very loud, it absolutely is intolerable, especially if I'm trying to sleep. Oh, and that includes men's voices from outside my place, triggers my anxiety. Also chain saws and construction saws, all that noise just wears me out.

Sue on July 25, 2015:

Dogs barking constantly drives me crazy. I can't tolerate multiple conversations going on at the same time. I also have a problem with kids talking/screaming loudly and running around with no parent control. My father tries to talk over the TV which is also very loud. I came to the realization this week that I'm a highly sensitive person and now everything is making sense. I always wondered why I never fit in with family or friends.

jan on June 06, 2015:

The ice maker when the ice drops, people who suck their teeth, gum popping, snoring, knuckle cracking, screaming children, loud TV, car doors slamming while I'm in the house. If I SEE them closing its ok. On and on. People make fun of me but I can't help it.

. on April 24, 2015:

Neighbours walking around above me, bass sounds from TV or radio from somewhere in the building (even soft bass sounds) they drive me against the walls! I become sick and feel my blood starts to boil..its horrible. I always have to sleep with earplugs until midnight (I usually am so exhausted I need to sleep early) repeating sound are terrible but I am most afraid of footsteps from upstairs neighbours

Sara on March 04, 2015:

High pitched electronics like old TV's, or static on the radio, traffic, construction noises like jackhammers or the god awful beep of a truck backing up, the sounds of people chewing or eating, even the sound of the air coming out of heating vents. I've had my hearing tested and I'm right in the perfectly normal zone, so that's not it. It's more like my brain is not programmed to compartmentalize white noise. In university I had a friend who listened to a white noise soundtrack of cafe noises and I got stressed out just thinking about it.

jereme on December 20, 2014:

A ringing phone

Renee Dixon from Kentucky on February 01, 2014:

When my baby is screaming or crying I just can't stand the sound, I'll do whatever it takes to get him to calm down as quickly as possible. I also can't stand multiple noises competing with each other. I hate it when people are trying to talk over a loud radio, or when your trying to hear someone in a noisy room.

sousababy on January 13, 2014:

When I have a migraine, high pitch noises are the worst. I'm also more sensitive to smells and some really bother me when I have a migraine. I think I have a pattern of when I'm more sensitive to the environment (and at other times, I'm more resilient).

Colin323 on January 03, 2014:

Barking dogs and loud noise from neighbours is the worst kind for me. It is not so much the noise, but the sheer insensitivity and selfish oblivion to the lives of people around them that freaks me out.

GabrielaFargasch on January 03, 2014:

Omg! I had no idea there is a name for my condition! Everything bothers me! People talking, dogs barking, cars driving, loud music, loud tv, snoring, sneezing, coughing sounds, everything!

DebMartin on November 14, 2013:

I can actually hear the electrical box on the outside of my house when I'm in bed. Drives me nuts some days. The dog bowl has to have padding underneath it. Can't stand it when it starts moving as the dog digs up the last tidbits. Two hours of radio or tv is about my limit.

elloii on October 06, 2013:

(obviously a lot of people appreciate music this way. :))

elloii on October 06, 2013:

I also must add that I find immensely comfort and sentiment in music (that I like), on the other hand. I absorb it with my whole being and get a endorphine( or any another positive neurotransmittor coctail) kick very easy, this type of "kicks" I get a lot (from anything from art, thoughts, to people or real situations) it feels like lemonade bubbles through your head, heart and spine and I'm able to feel deep emotions related to the music at hand that corresponds with my own emotional state, it's very cathartic since you are able to influence it a bit. it is a soothing and empowering tool for a sensitive soul. It also makes you more able to feel emphatetic and to feel for stuff and validating your emotional and social state generally since you get in contact with all your different emotions and dont "get stuck" in a certain state (if you are being somewhat self-aware.) Thats one of the positive traits of a so called "hsp" character. You may tend for your emotional needs and deconstruct your influences into something constructive by, for example, how our body experience the message in music or other experiences.

elloii on October 06, 2013:

I feel for you, Or. I have to wear earphones with "own" noise to block out other distractions or in demanding places where I want to have focus on my self/own agenda. I almost couldnt live in the flat I had before, in the middle of a three store old wooden house. Had to wear earphones a lot to feel relaxed. Either music or just some monotone boring (preferably somewhat interesting/nice) podcast or video just to get to sleep or think/feel and not just pretend that I wasn't in battle with the underlying stress of random noise. However, got a new one on upper floor with very quiet neighbours, which helped a lot! freedom.. :) I think the source of noise factor among "hsp" is personal and subconsciously related. I get distracted by most noise if I'm just a little bit stressed/"overexcited", for example, if I need to be in my own bubble for a while but the neighbours walk around a lot, if I'm in a more calm mode it's ok. I find the table fan noise soothing, it can actually block out other distractions. Perhaps it also reminds me on a nerval subconscious level of how my grandmother used to snore loudly when I stayed at her place.. Im not able to shut off all the conversations around me in a classroom, but I can block it out on the subway, generally I can block it out in a lot of locations, dont mind crowds etc.

there overstimulation is okay, it's expected. It's worse when you are at home where you're supposed to be able to "charge your batteries" and to feel freedom and to be total off-guard. It helps to trick yourself into some habitual integrity by blocking out noise by noise, though.. you just have to appreciate the other noise, and then you gradually soothe your o-s transmittors into forgetting about the other noise.. you have to biologically change focus in your nervous system into another hormonal state. or just watch some boring but wholesome bbc documentary until you've changed focus a bit. :) and thank god for the mp3.

anonymous on September 16, 2013:

I live on the first floor of a 1928 building with absolutely no insulation between floors. Two things Ian this article jumped out at me:

1. Having upstairs neighbors whose footsteps are clearly audible as they as they walk back and forth-- maybe there are certain board in their floor that squeak.

2. The sound of dishwashers and washing machines through the walls or ceilings. Sometimes it can even be your own.

The people upstairs run their dishwasher every day and I find myself gritting my teeth whenever they turn it on. I bought some noise canceling earphones which I put on when I her the dishwasher go on. They don't cancel out everything but they do make it better. Sometimes I'll even wear earplugs with the earphones on top!

I realize that, because of my noise sensitivity, I probably shouldn't be living in a condo. But I own it, it's paid for, and I'm not about to move.

uberkelly on September 12, 2013:

Great article! Too many to list! One thing I can't stand is when you are riding in the car with someone and they have the music playing loudly, and then they try to talk to you. I don't understand why they don't just turn the music down?? Others: toddlers screaming and throwing fits makes me grit my teeth. When you work in an open office environment--people who play music or have loud ringtones on their phones. Or when you can hear someone's music even though they are wearing headphones. Loud, sudden noises also make me jump more than the average person.

anonymous on September 02, 2013:

People smacking on their food & popcorn, popping bubblegum,stomping, or kids running on the floor above me, babies constanly screaming at the top of their lungs, loud people, constant giggling, my husband popping his knuckles & neck. I get sooo agitatated, I feel like my head will explode, or I'll turn into the Incredible Hulk!

anonymous on August 31, 2013:

Noisy chatting coworkers or neighbours; kids screaming, having tantrums, talking loudly, dogs barking repeatedly, high pitched train tracks, chatter on background televisions and radios.

anonymous on August 30, 2013:

Imagine an open office area with 7 people (in and out more throughout the day), the telephone, and two of them --Yes two of the people in the same open office playing music!!!!! and add the laughing, chatting, constant noise --- impossible work environment for me! lost a job i liked because of it. people thought i was being nasty, thin skinned, bullying when all i wanted was understanding and to do my job.

anonymous on August 30, 2013:

@anonymous: extremely bothersome

anonymous on August 29, 2013:

Being in the middle of 10 conversations at once.

anonymous on August 28, 2013:

General banging or clanging noises drive me crazy!

Peter Messerschmidt (author) from Port Townsend, WA, USA on August 23, 2013:

@Mary Stephenson: I can appreciate that! I have never been able to understand why some people need to play their music so loudly it makes your teeth rattle. Thanks for your comment!

Mary Stephenson from California on August 21, 2013:

Loud music. Had to deal with it at different apartments, jobs and now with an annoying business (who will soon be moving). Cars that have music on so loud it vibrates in my house, with all windows and doors closed. Most of my noisy neighbors are gone, but I still would like to move to the country. Was raised in a quiet environment and may be that is why it bothers me so much.