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Hypersensitivity To Sound And Anxiety Disorders

Denise Griswold, MSc, LCAS
Hypersensitivity To Sound And Anxiety Disorders

It's no secret that our upbringing and experiences can lead to anxiety. While genetics play a role in the development of anxiety; stressful experiences may reinforce fear and other negative emotions creating anxiety to emerge.

Hypersensitivity, or "oversensitivity” is extreme sensitivity to a specific experience, such as sound. Auditory hypersensitivity, or hypersensitivity to sound, may include sensitivity to specific triggering noises, or loud noises in general. Individuals with auditory hypersensitivity experience distress upon hearing the triggering sound. Some people with anxiety may experience this type of sensitivity. 

Understanding the Variations of Noise Anxiety

Hypersensitivity to noise is somewhat of a broad term as sensitivity may cause varying responses. Depending on the way a person experiences anxiety, the triggering noise may cause minor irritation or something much more impairing. 

Generally, the following represent auditory hypersensitivity. Remember, your experience may be different than others:

All of these fall under auditory hypersensitivity as they are all way that you and your body react to sound.

It's also important to remember that you can experience this type of sensitivity even when you don't feel anxiety or have anxious thoughts. Anxiety is largely a physical experience, and you may find you are tense even when your thoughts are relaxed and calm, leading to the presence of hypersensitivity.

Controlling Your Reactions to Noise

Dealing with hypersensitivity can be difficult but help is available. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be very helpful for individuals experiencing many varying symptoms of anxiety. Exposure techniques, in particular, may also be useful in reducing hypersensitivity. 

What is Exposure Therapy?

Exposure therapy is the process of gradually being exposed to your anxiety trigger in a safe and controlled setting. Over time your anxious reaction should decline and eventually be eliminated. It is recommended that a person start with the least distressing form of their anxiety trigger and work their way up to experiencing the actual trigger. 

For example, if you have a fear of spiders, you might start by thinking about spiders. Once that no longer causes significant anxiety you may move on to looking at photos of spiders.  Next you may move to videos of spiders, then spiders across the room, then a spider right next to you, and finally a spider on you. You only move on to the next step when you no longer experience anxiety at the level you’re on. 

If you would like to attempt to implement exposure therapy at home for noise, you can follow the steps below:

These exercises help you to build tolerance for the sound and decrease your hypersensitivity.

Once you have reduced your hypersensitivity, you should continue to learn to cope with and manage your symptoms of anxiety in order to prevent recurrence of negative symptoms and future development of hypersensitivity.

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