A Noisy Noise

**This post discusses sounds that may cause extreme discomfort in some people.**

A noisy noise annoys a noisy oyster.

Y’know how there are some sounds that are just like nails on a chalkboard? Something that goes straight to the brain at the base of your spine? A sound that is so irritating, it can be used as a cliché? Of course you do. Everyone has a noise or two that annoys them, that makes them have to leave the room or make it stop. Some of them have a biological function, like a baby or child crying. A parent who hears that will feel the urge to make it stop, hopefully by changing or feeding or holding, something positive like that. There are some who make other choices, but they’re not good examples. Others we are conditioned to respond in a particular way, like a siren* or a bell. A tornado siren may mean there’s a strong chance of a nasty storm, or that a nasty storm is already happening and it’s about to get much worse. A bell could mean it’s time to change classes, or someone is at the door. These are relatively universal responses.

Then there’s the extreme response.

08-18-2013 048a
Perhaps this image will be a bit more soothing.

Nearly everyone can agree that the constant thump thump thump of a loud bass line is annoying, especially when it’s actually loud enough to make things around it vibrate. Some people will do what they can to make it stop, or at least go away from it. Maybe if it’s disruptive enough, they’ll even call the police for a noise violation. Others may say something about making the noise stop, describing what they might do to the perpetrator. The assumption in that situation is that the person is all talk, getting their frustrations out verbally, and that’s fine. Still others may literally fly into a rage and have to actively keep themselves from going after the source of that noise and forcibly stopping it, with no thought to the consequences. That’s what misophonia† looks like. Maybe “sounds like” would be more appropriate, although it appears there’s also a visual version of it, where there may not necessarily be a sound, but the sight of something that causes it might be enough.

Looking around online, I found an even better description by Reddit user Sango 12592

“Imagine trying to focus on something when very angry wasp starts hovering around you, threatening to sting. You want to run, hide, or fight back. You can feel the adenine pumping. You realize this is an extreme response. It’s not like it can do you you [sic] any real harm, but your body is acting on an instinct. You can’t control how you feel or concentrate on anything until it’s gone.”

In the simplest of terms, it’s a dramatic overreaction to a common sound. Whether I’m actually dealing with misophonia or have something else going on, I do know that both continuous loud thumping bass and lip-smacking will send me into a rage. For the second, there may be other reasons it bothers me so much; the point, however, is that it will make me irrational, and that’s not something I like to be.

It’s not about loud; the heavy bass when it’s loud is irritating. I still don’t like it, but no one does. Well, that’s not quite true – some people like it, otherwise they wouldn’t keep doing it. That reminds me, I need to buy some stock in a company that makes hearing aids. Should be a booming business within the next few years.

When that bass – or any music for that matter – is at a volume where most people are not irritated, where it’s not particularly loud or particularly annoying, when the bass is thumping, but I can’t hear anything else with it, no lyrics no other instruments, then it infuriates me. Yes, that’s the right word for it, infuriate. I have in the past stepped outside on my porch, someone parked in front of the house beside me, car running, music thumping, and explained in no uncertain terms that what they were doing was bothering me and it needed to stop immediately. Now, I don’t live in the best part of town. I don’t live in the worst, either, but I do live close to the worst part of my neighborhood. What that means is there are people who are armed, who are doing things they shouldn’t be doing, things that would likely get them arrested if not killed. Been a while since we’ve had a shooting over here, so there’s that. I mention that because here, stepping outside at night, yelling at some random stranger for disturbing me, could actually be a little dangerous. It’s something I have to consider, to remember when I hear things. Like I said, I’m far from the worst part of town, just the worst part of my neighborhood. I know this. Someone knocking on my door in the evening had better be someone I know. During the day too, for that matter.

My neighbor and I have had it out more than once with her music playing at night. It’s not as bad as it has been in the past, thankfully. I’ve had a few overreactions to that, too.

So how much of that is misophonia, and how much is just the whole “Highly sensitive person” thing? I don’t know. What I do know is loud sounds, bright lights, and rough fabrics hurt, and music that is just barely loud enough to hear will make it about impossible for me to do anything else. Thank goodness for earbuds.


*Growing up with this testing schedule, my first response when I hear the siren is to check my watch, see if it’s noon. They don’t run the test if a tornado watch has already been issued.

†Also Selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

A more amusing look at misophonia. Again, if you’re sensitive, this could be difficult to read.

Esquire profile of musician Paul Tabachneck, who also suffers from misophonia


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