Acoustic phobia – fear of loud noises

Lata Jain

Acoustic phobia is the fear of loud noises. Dr.Meenaz a psychiatric counselor explains, this irrational fear of inappropriate response to loud noises. Irrational and inappropriate because it’s a response to something that means no actual danger. Irrational Fear of noise, feeling of panic, feeling of dread, rapid increase of heartbeat, increase of heart beat, shortness of breath, dry mouth or anxiety attack. Acoustic phobia, just like most phobias, comes from a subconscious ‘overprotection’ mechanism. The fear of noise is caused by the mind over-estimating the danger caused by noise, believing that noise presents an actual threat, where in reality it may not.

lata jain

Lata Jain

Acoustic phobia can be caused by an ‘unresolved’ emotional conflict. Those who suffer from Acoustic phobia find street noise, music, and other common noises to be grating – even the sounds of the human voice. People with this phobia will feel irritated and upset when they cannot escape from the source of their displeasure.

Often, those who suffer from this phobia will be forced to change their lifestyle and curtail their activities in order to stay away from noises that bother them. In our busy world, honking cars, screeching brakes, and big machines abound, causing all manner of loud noises which may irritate. While most people learn to filter out the sounds that distract and annoy them, the person with Acoustic phobia finds it impossible to focus on anything else says Dr.Usha Naik, psychiatrist.

Some people with this aversion may avoid babies, children, and pets, because they are often noisy. This phobia can impact relationships, as some noise and confusion is basically a given in families and other primary relationships says Dr.Sainath a family counselor. Many people with this phobia are frightened by the prospect of sudden, very loud noises. They live with this fear every day, worrying about where the next painful onslaught of sound will come from, says Dr.Stevenson a child psychiatrist.

I have a serious problem with the noise of people eating, smacking, crunching, animals licking themselves, dripping or mucous noises, balloons popping or unexpected loud noises. It causes problems for me in social situations especially when I have to leave because the noises are driving me nuts says Neha shah a 23 year MBA student. My fear of noise started when I was very young. A Clock ticking, a leaky faucet, noise of the jet and the furnace making a noise. It has really affected my whole life. I want to get better, says Vittahal Raghav a chartered accountant.

This phobia is a reaction of a specific event or a childhood trauma. Family history and upbringing could also be reasons to such trauma. Accidents or deaths with lot of suffering of someone dear to us are also a reason to get into anxiety. And this anxiety could cause a phobia and if related to noise then it leads to acoustic phobia. A negative experience from the past can also be a reason for this phobia says Dr.Majid, family counselor at Praudhi, an NGO.

Phobias affect people of all ages, from all walks of life, and in every part of the country, they are surprisingly common, being experienced by up to 10% of all adults and are the most common psychiatric disorder among women of all ages and the second most common issue that men over 25 experience.

Treatment begins with anti anxiety medicine. They only help to reduce the anxiety and are not a permanent cure to the problem. Systematic desensitization, where the patient is exposed to low sounds and increased slowly. Behavioural Psychotherapy sessions is one more ways of treating.

 In Hyderabad firecrackers are available in all seasons. With the ongoing weddings firecrackers are common and people with this phobia have a tough time. They prefer staying indoors says Dr.Meera maslekar, ENT. Family members feel it’s a temporary phase and consider it as a momentary phobia and not much importance is given to acoustic phobia in India.

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