Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

also called sound sensitivity anxiety, noise anxiety, misophonia, noise sensitivity disorder, noise annoyance anxiety

Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome Treatment also called sound sensitivity anxiety, noise anxiety, misophonia, noise sensitivity disorder, noise annoyance anxiety

If you or someone you know deals with this, you’ve probably heard at least one of these phrases:

Loud noises make me angry

Certain noises bother me

I can’t stand loud chewing

I hate the sound of coughing

I can’t handle loud noises

I hate the sound of people eating

Repetitive sounds make me angry

I hate the sound of chewing

Why do loud noises make me anxious

Sudden loud noises make me angry


Selective sound sensitivity syndrome and hyperacusis can be confused pretty easily. Someone with hyperacusis has a low tolerance for everyday sounds, but the sound sensitivity is much less specific.

Here is a definition of each.


Consistently exaggerated or inappropriate responses to sounds that are neither threatening nor uncomfortably loud to a typical person.

Misophonia/Selective sound sensitivity syndrome

The intolerance of sound that may be specific to certain sounds with emotional associations.


To read more about hyperacusis, click here

Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome Symptoms

Noise anxiety symptoms usually show up in the teen years or even preteen age. You’ll notice someone who has selective sound sensitivity syndrome has very specific noises that they just can’t stand.

Here are some common things people with misophonia hate hearing

misophonia examples

  • chewing
  • smacking
  • clicking
  • licking
  • crickets
  • nail clipping
  • breathing
  • crunching
  • slamming
  • rubbing

Someone who has selective sound sensitivity syndrome might be able to use a jackhammer all day at work but when they hear someone slurping at dinner they lash out at the family.

If someone was sensitive to noise itself, the jackhammer would be impossible to tolerate and that’s when it becomes more obvious that they’re experiencing hypersensitivity anxiety symptoms or selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

Tons of people have sounds they prefer not to hear and all of us have scenarios we would rather not be in.

But, someone with anxiety handles these situations differently.

People with obsessive compulsive personalities are more likely to have selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

(Makes sense since OCD symptoms are usually anxiety based).

You could also make an argument that the selective noises are actually triggers, and really more of a PTSD thing.

PTSD can be hard to conquer because when something happens; a certain behavior, a smell, a touch, a noise, you don’t have much control of your body’s physiological response.

Cognitively, you don’t really understand what’s happening, but your amygdala knows exactly what it’s doing.

How Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome Happens

PTSD Related Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

Let’s say you’re 6. The family is coming home from Aunt Mary’s house but mom wanted to stay and have a bit more fun before going home.

Dad’s driving. Mom is yelling and then hits dad in the head with a coffee mug, that shatters (true story).

Dad starts pulling over, he’s bleeding, mom gets out, slams the door and walks off into the woods.

Dad gets out and follows her, blah blah…

You eventually make it home alive.

You may not remember each time it happened in your lifetime, but your amygdala has responded to a potentially life threatening situation, more than once.

In this example it’s mom & dad arguing while driving home.

The driver of the vehicle you’re sitting in (also your parent) was bludgeoned & bleeding.

This created a cascade of events in your body; raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate, sending oxygen to the brain to increase alertness.

Your body was giving you the tools to make you more likely to survive.

Something may have stood out to you during the event, that you might not even remember today. 

The keys jingling in the ignition, the door that mom slammed, the brakes being slammed on..

It doesn’t matter if you remember it or not, because your amygdala does. 

& 2 or even 30 years later your amygdala will create that same response to whatever sets it off;

Raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate, sending oxygen to the brain to increase alertness, etc.

We don’t think, “oh here is my amygdala goin’ again.. gee.”

Instead, we cognitively try to make sense of what’s happening.

Something seemingly random happens (a door slamming) & we find ourselves alert, panicked, wanting to get out of the area, or freeze and not interact at all..

It’s not all in your head, it’s a physiological response that saves lives all the time..

Our amygdala works really well & for good reason.

Our amygdala also cuts right in front of our cognitive functioning.

This means, you might try to say to yourself  “just calm down, it’s alright” but you find yourself incapable of it. 

Your fight or flight response doesn’t give you that option, again, for good reason. If you’re trying to live, there isn’t really time to sit there and think about it. 

Your body is doing exactly what it should be doing.. just maybe not at the right time.

Which is kind of exactly what we would call

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

It’s not about what’s wrong with you, it’s about what happened to you.

PTSD isn’t just a memory, it’s a response from your body.

If this fits your narrative, try spending some time with a trauma-informed therapist. Because here is the thing about PTSD; it doesn’t just go away (trust me).

You need to process it & being taught how is well worth your money.

You can’t put a price on not living in misery, but that’s just my opinion. 

I spent 5 years working with a therapist & thankfully trauma was her thing.

I was pleasantly shocked about how good life could actually be.

Anxiety Related Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

Now, let’s go back to the bloody coffee cup smashing driving incident… 

When this stuff happens, parents usually don’t turn around and say “hey mom drank too much and is being absolutely outrageous. This is an abnormal thing that’s happening.”

& mom doesn’t get back in the car and say “Hey, sorry that was not okay when I smashed that cup on your dad’s head while he was behind the wheel of a car and all you kids were in the backseat.”

Instead what they often do is try to be discrete, be cool and act like everything is natural and just fine….

Meanwhile you’re 6 and feeling like

Treatments for Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

but the adults are acting like it’s just another night driving home.

Leaving kids feeling confused.

Your body is telling you to be very concerned and you’re scared but your caregivers are not validating or even acknowledging that overwhelming feeling inside that something is really off.

As kids, we look to our caregivers for guidance but this emotional neglect (that happens OFTEN in homes with addiction) creates kids (which eventually become adults) that

    • doubt their own instincts
    • doubt their intuition
    • feel confused about their body’s signals
    • lose touch with their own feelings
    • ignore their internal messages

This is more of the anxiety piece of the puzzle.


Anxious people misinterpret their surroundings and their body’s signals and it’s usually because their caregivers taught them to feel that way. 


Sometimes adults are ashamed and don’t want to bring up their mistakes.

Maybe they’re hoping you didn’t notice.

Maybe they spend a lot of time drunk/high and don’t remember their actions to apologize for them or acknowledge them.

Maybe they’re uncomfortable talking about feelings/emotions.

Maybe they’re just assholes. 

Either way, here are some things that can help when noise makes you anxious.

How To Cope With Noise Anxiety

hypersensitivity anxiety treatment

1 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

A really effective (non-medication) method for treating anxiety & worth looking into if you haven’t.

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps a person identify negative thought patterns so they can change them.

Free Trigger Tracker PDF For Recognizing/Tracking What Sets You Off

The underlying principle is that thought patterns are learned, and therefore can be unlearned.

Read More About CBT Here

Basic CBT Model Below

Treatments for Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

2 Noise Anxiety Medication Options

3 Groups 

They have free individualized support and groups for

    • Eating disorders
    • Abuse
    • PTSD
    • Dissociation
    • Sexual trauma
    • Grief and loss
    • Self esteem
    • Self care
    • Men’s support groups
    • Substance abuse & more

I have joined some of their PTSD groups and they’re usually just 3-5 people and a mentor who keeps things on track.

ACOA changed my life & many others have the same admiration for this program.

They have rules to make sure you feel safe. Plus, it’s all free.

Don’t be turned off if you’re not from a home with alcoholism; there a lot of people from non-alcoholic dysfunctional families that are just as welcome as anyone else. 

I like the in-person groups personally, but there are tons of virtual groups too.

4 Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

A therapy used to improve physiological flexibility

Read More Here

5 Relaxation Techniques

  • Mindfulness
  • Grounding
  • Deep Breathing
  • Muscle Relaxation

Read More Here

6 White Noise

The quieter your surroundings, the more sensitive your ears become; making the triggering sounds that much more impactful.

Having white noise around to drown out noise can help.

White Noise Machine

Treatments for Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

    • Fan-based natural white noise
    • Adjustable tone and volume to create a personalized sound environment
    • Just plug it in, flip the switch on, then rotate the collar to find the best sound
    • Fits anywhere and blends into surroundings
    • Can improve symptoms of selective sound sensitivity syndrome & insomnia

Your could also try headphones, a fan, or anything else that will drown out noise.

Hopefully some of these help. If you have any insight, please comment below or let me know personally

If you want to learn more about how PTSD changes our body & mind, here is a book that talks about it.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

This book explains the impact of abuse and emotional neglect in adults.

It’s kind of a dry book in my opinion, but certainly explains PTSD in many forms.  

Treatments for Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome

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