Yelling man

Sensory Overload: Why Some Noises Drive You Nuts

Does the sound of someone smacking or popping their gum drive you crazy? Do you want to pull out your hair when you hear loud music upon entering a store or your children calling “mom” over and over again? Are you constantly yelling “turn it down!?” If you get unreasonably irritated by noises and have a hard time tuning them out, you’re not alone. This condition has a name: Hyperacusis.

Hyperacusis is a disorder in loudness perception. Patients suffering from hyperacusis are overly sensitive to sounds, finding many everyday noises unbearable. Ringing phones, television, eating, crying babies and clinking dishes may sound painfully loud.

There can be physical reasons for the disorder, like Lyme Disease, trauma or an infection. Anxiety, stress and depression are also culprits. However, as a psychotherapist, I believe sensory overload is one of the main reasons mothers (and in some cases, fathers) can experience Hyperacusis. Today’s moms juggle work, parenting and other social obligations. And as the old saying goes, “There are only 24 hours in a day.” But emotionally, our minds are required to process what seems like way more. Think of life 30 years ago: no cellphones, no emails, no texting, no social media, no internet! There was no such thing as “unplugging” because we were not really plugged in. But now, it is next to impossible to escape the noise or find some alone time.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to walk around with earplugs or bite your tongue when your husband starts crunching on pretzels. There are ways you can save your sanity and your ears.

Try being truly present. Turn off the tv, phone, iPad, and computer, and focus on the task at hand… even if it is just asking your kids about their day at school. When you exercise, leave the earbuds, magazines and other distractions at home. Focus on your own thoughts instead of being entertained by others. If you feel anxious about “missing something,” leave an outgoing message saying that you are going on an hour retreat. Also, there is a reason walks are known for clearing your mind. Leave your phone at home and take a stroll — even on a cold and rainy day. A simpler life may just lead to the peace and quiet that you crave. I know it will take some getting use to, but practice makes sense… don’t you think?

Written by Lisa Schlesinger

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