The sound of silence : why noise is bad for you

effectsofnoiseI have a confession.

I struggle to cope with noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the whole nightclub/pub thing and even played musical instruments in orchestras but, over recent years, I have found it increasingly difficult to cope with ‘prolonged’ noise. I also find places where there is a cacophony of noise difficult too.

When I am in a noisy environment I can literally feel my blood pressure rising – it’s like a kind of panic almost – and the need to escape the noise is overwhelming. I often dream of being on an isolated island with just the cat for company (!) which until I read this article I figured it was all a part of me getting old – apparently not – yet I am not sure if the article has made me feel better or worse about my situation.

The article (How noise can make you fat, stressed and more likely to have a stroke…) featured in the Daily Mail online (31/10/16) quotes from the World Health Organisation:

“…noise pollution is one of the most pressing threats to public health, second only to air pollution, and responsible for a range of conditions from stress and sleep problems to heart disease and strokes — it can even make us fat.”

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Evidently our bodies respond to noise by triggering the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Our body will begin to produce several stress hormones and, if the noise is prolonged, eventually our bodies will start to produce cortisol which is a stress hormone that can negatively affect health. The article states several risks from this such as increased blood pressure, risk of stroke, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and sleep problems.

I must admit that although I knew I was stressed by noise, I had no idea that it could pose a risk to my health but I guess it follows that if I am stressed then my blood pressure will rise and I know that’s not a good thing.

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Image courtesy of digital art via freedigitalphotos.net

In my personal circumstances it is impossible to live without noise. My youngest son is severely autistic (amongst other conditions) and to him, noise is a stimuli. He makes as much noise as is humanly possible for as long as possible, which I know has not helped my situation.

Clearly there is little that I can do to stop the noise created by my son, however, the article does suggest simple changes such as achieving a period of ‘quiet time’ each day – even ten minutes can be beneficial, it says. There was one other basic piece of advice which I have followed too, one which again I had given absolutely no thought to. I have changed the notification tone on my phone and tablet. I had a rather adorable old-fashioned ‘choo choo’ noise selected for email notifications, however, it was quite loud. Now I have changed this to a small ‘tweet’ sound, a bit like that of a bird, which, given my desire to be out in the wilds, is actually much more preferable.

For me it was an interesting read, not least because it means that I do genuinely have a reason for struggling with my tolerance to noise which has nothing to do with getting old. I know of some writers who cannot write unless they are accompanied by the radio or their favourite music but I am not one of those. I have realised that I really need my ‘quiet time’ and my ‘tweet tweet’ noise to keep my stress levels lowered and, if I can do this then I won’t be stifling my creativity – another potential side effect of too much exposure to noise.

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My only regret is that it is no longer the 1980’s because if it was, I could get away with wearing pink, fluffy ear muffs… sigh…

What about you? Can any of you relate to my struggle with noise?

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6 thoughts on “The sound of silence : why noise is bad for you

  1. I get this … I like to have music on in the background. I married into a family that doesn’t understand there is an “off” button on the television. So, the TV is always on and I never get to listen to music unless I’m home alone, which doesn’t happen all that often. And then there’s the dog that barks at everything. And there are times when I feel like I’m going slowly crazy because of the noise that exists in my own home.

    I hope you find your quiet time when you need it.

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    • It’s amazing how noise can drive us crazy. I think it is because I live with so much noise that I really crave time without it. I never thought about it before I read this article, but all the ‘white’ noise sounds from all of our gadgets etc.. don’t help either. I hope that you manage to get some time to play your music soon too!

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  2. I cannot abide noise. As a writer, I cannot write anywhere else other than my office at home, while listening to mood enhancing music, which helps me write better narrative, but also to drown out other noises such as yapping dogs, traffic, people or anything else that has the potential to irritate me.

    I also suffer from misophonia (hatred of sounds), which kind of makes my life a nightmare at times because some noises (sounds of eating, packet or bag ruffling, cutlery clinking/scraping against plates, whistling, humming, foot tapping or repetitive noises) just make me want to do very bad things to people.

    It’s always nice to escape from it all and shut everyone out. Silence sometimes really is golden.

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    • Wow, I didn’t realise that there was actually a condition. When I read your reply I was nodding at pretty much all of the things that drive you crazy too! I must have a bit of that in me. I can’t abide when my husband is crinkling his packet of crisps etc.., gosh. Thanks so much for reading and for enlightening me. I really do wish I could find more silence in my day to day life sometimes! 😊

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  3. I do relate to a dislike of noise. What a challenge for you with your son’s need for it and your need to avoid it.

    I used to love music–was a professional danger, always listened to music. Now, it’s distracting. I work with natural noises only–that seems to work for me.

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