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February 7, 2011


I’ve been conducting some scientific research lately, and I have concluded that three out of three moms–namely, my friends Jenny, Sally and Amanda–all suffer from noise sensitivity. Check that: I, plus my mom, suffer from the same affliction, so make that five out of five moms who wish they could push a mute button on the world.

According to Dr. Google, it’s called misophonia, but I’m not sure if that’s the correct diagnosis. I really don’t care what you call it. The reality is, many sounds set me off. If I’m in an elevator with somebody who is rolling a piece of hard candy around his mouth, I press a button to get off ASAP to escape the ruckus. Stuck on an airplane next to somebody who has to recount the minute-by-minute delay of our 45-minute late flight, I sigh loudly and repeatedly in hopes they’ll sense my frustration. Never works.

When my husband used to work from home and ate his lunch in the kitchen, I, from my basement office one floor below him, regularly yelled up at him through a closed door to stop chewing so loud. The deeper the love, the more honest you can be, right? Maybe not. After a month or so, he rented an office. Since I’m coming clean, I should admit I stopped buying potato chips because I simply couldn’t stand the noise of him chewing them. (Please note: He has perfect manners, taking small bites and chewing with his mouth closed. It’s totally my problem, but I can’t get a grip.)

Rumblefish that they are, children exacerbate the situation. My kids are not slow to wake. By 6:30 a.m at the latest, they are fully alert and often speaking in shrieks, banging their forks on plastic plate drums or belting out the current music class fave: The Erie Canal. “No noise,” I grump. “If you need to be loud, go to your room and close your door.” They never have obeyed that order. I wasn’t up for 2011 Mother of the Year award, but I officially lost any chance when poor Amelia, wracked with that gunky coughy thing earlier this month, couldn’t stop coughing in the car. As she hacked, all I could think was, “Please shut up, please shut up.” (O.k., I didn’t use my manners and I threw in the f-bomb, but I did keep my mouth shut and instead took deep, nasal breaths.)

Santa had a serious lapse of judgment when he left these in the stockings.

Apparently misophonia is related to the amount of stress one has in one’s life, or to feeling run down or tired. Great: so I’m basically hosed. But if your ears are also a ball of nerves, I offer up this other bit of helpful home-spun science: My noise tolerance improves vastly after an early morning workout. When I wake up in silence, put on my music at an acceptable level–or sometimes opt for no tunes–and let my body warm up and get in a groove before I have to confront any noise not manufactured or endorsed by me, I’m better.

Not perfect, but better. I still can’t stand the kids blaring on their recorders on the same shrill note, but instead of threatening to stomp on them–the recorders, not the kids–I calmly request that the kids hand them over. I may have to count to three in order to have them cough them up, but once they’re in my hands, I hide them in the back of a closet. And hope that either they forget about them or I remember to throw them away.

58 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 5:08 am

    So true! I particularly enjoy the cacophony of “sponge boooooob- square pants!!!!” along with the highly annoying noise of the computer game of the month and the generalized squealing and fighting over computer turns. And all this on less than one cup of joe. This must be why I love working out in the morning! And with it being a Monday I was tempted to put it off until the babe went down for nap… I think I’ll reconsider!

  2. Casi permalink
    February 7, 2011 5:12 am

    Smiling to myself as I read the post while enjoying my morning coffee–in QUIET. I am in total agreement—I have actually said to my husband who has a SEVERE snoring issue to “Stop Breathing!”.

    • February 7, 2011 6:27 pm

      Um, breathe right strips? Bet you’ve tried them though.

  3. Carolyn permalink
    February 7, 2011 5:48 am


    I am constantly telling everyone in my house, “Shhhhhhhhh!” And I only have two children, a husband, and dog. In fact last night, I said it during the Super Bowl! Who tells everyone to “Shhh!” during the biggest game of the year?! And as I write this, my 6 yo us is singing HSM songs in her HSM microphone while my 4 yo bangs along on symbols – and it’s just 7:47a. Mind you, it could be 6:00a because that is when the chaos usually starts in my house. Again, thank you for telling it like it is and making me feel not so alone or crazy. I love RLAM!!

    • February 7, 2011 6:27 pm

      If you’re crazy, I’m right along with you, Carolyn. 🙂

  4. February 7, 2011 6:24 am

    Could not agree more. Just came back from pilates and kids are still sleeping for another 20 minutes or so, so it’s just me and my coffee. After hosting a house full of boys to watch the Super Bowl last night I’m loving the quiet!

  5. Amanda permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:38 am

    Because it was so flippin’ loud at that event, I couldn’t get my head together to say that TMJ tension exacerbates it. There’s a direct correlation between how tight the TMJ muscles are and how sensitive my hearing is. Last winter it got so bad that I was complaining on a run about how loud the snow was crunching. The TMJ had gotten so bad that I couldn’t get my teeth cleaned until after I had been on a month of muscle relaxers and a steady round of acupuncture. Once I got my TMJ muscles under control, the sensitivity got a lot better, but it’s been a life long issue for me, so I don’t think it will ever go away entirely. I post all this TMJ TMI in case anyone else is having issues and hasn’t made the connection.

    • Amanda permalink
      February 7, 2011 6:41 am

      And, I failed to mention, I also get the TMJ muscles Needled (google dry needling) now, and that helps keep them under control.

      • February 7, 2011 6:28 pm

        Thanks for the info, Amanda: I can see how the jaw/ear issue could be easily interconnected. Here’s to quiet snow. 🙂

  6. February 7, 2011 6:44 am

    I think I have the opposite problem: I can tune all of it out; the kids, the annoying chewers, my husband’s cough, etc. Sometimes that’s also a disadvantage because people tend to think you’re ignoring them, which in a sense I guess I am but it’s so not intentional. Hmmmm…

  7. Muti permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:54 am

    not sure that stress, being run down or tired are truly causes – having just returned from a lovely yoga retreat in Costa Rica, I can say I am none of the above and still can’t stand the jingle of change in my husband’s pocket or the neighbors yippy dogs – and this has been going on as long as I remember having ears……

  8. February 7, 2011 7:02 am

    As I was reading this I couldn’t believe it…there ARE people like me out there! I thought I was the only one who felt like this. I have been feeling guilty for years! I sometimes think I should wear earphones all day to get piece or at least cottonballs.

  9. Stacy permalink
    February 7, 2011 8:04 am

    Thank you for naming the plague that ails me every morning I decide to be lazy and not run. You all bring a smile to my pinched monday morning face. : D

  10. mary permalink
    February 7, 2011 8:57 am

    OMG I thought it was just me being a 40 something beotch over this! I am not alone! Its why I don’t keep gum in my car anymore. I can’t stand listening to peoplechew thier cuds in my car!

    • Sue permalink
      February 7, 2011 7:23 pm

      Soooooo true! My husband knows better than to chew gun around me! The sound of someone’s saliva oozing around a piece of gum makes my skin crawl.

  11. February 7, 2011 9:02 am

    Great, more reason for me to get up and run in the morning. I hate waking up early. Why are there so many good reasons to roll out of bed??? 😉 (So glad I’m not the only one annoyed by a husband who chews too loudly!)

  12. February 7, 2011 9:05 am

    What a relief to not be the only one who resents the coughing! My daughter’s room is right next to ours, and I had to sleep on the couch for two nights straight over the weekend because there was something about that dry sound, some high note or something, that woke me up every time she had a coughing fit. Even on the couch I had to put a pillow on top of my head to tune it out. It’s weird, because having worked in newsrooms for years, I can tune out “adult” noise (phone talking, the children’s area at my library during storytime, my co-workers chatting)–none of that bugs me. But give one of my kids a cough and you find me on the ceiling.

    • February 7, 2011 7:18 pm

      seriously, Terzah, I felt awful when I thought that about Amelia, but I am so relieved that other moms feel the same way. Hope your couch is somewhat comfy. 🙂

  13. February 7, 2011 9:08 am

    Who hates Barney’s laugh? Me!

  14. February 7, 2011 9:27 am

    We braved Disney World for the first time this past fall–mainly because I didn’t think I could handle the noise etc. (kids 12, 10 and 2.5) Second full day there, I started the day with a two hour massage…I was then up for anything Mickey had to offer. I am saving my pennies for another massage….

  15. Megan permalink
    February 7, 2011 10:28 am

    Gawd! I can’t decide to be more grateful that you have running, or that you’re not MY mother! (Just kidding.–nice to hear from a kindred spirit!) I have a child who is very uncomfortable in silence, so he fills literally every second of his day with whistling, random clicks, mouth raspberries and the occasional shrill shriek just for the heck of it.
    I get you.

    • February 13, 2011 7:26 am

      Oh, was I so glad to read this post – and your comment! I am the same way – those random kid noises (the airplane sounds and the ‘fighting’ sounds when my kids are playing with their toys especially – which I think resemble static) send me over the edge. And when I’m driving – auuugh! I don’t remember ever needing to make so much noise when I was that age (7yrs and 4.5 yrs), but I’m sure I did. I hate to stifle their imaginations, but the swooshing and the shrieking in the mommy-van make me a little crazy – and that’s not so good when I’m driving….

  16. February 7, 2011 10:29 am

    YES, exactly THIS. So glad to know I’m not alone in my hatred of smacking, nail biting sounds, my husband’s heavy metal, and nighttime coughing. I’m better than I used to be- I used to avoid going to movies on the off chance that someone would be smacking popcorn in the seat next to or behind me. Now, I just sigh and bear it and can sometimes even tune it out. We sleep with whitenoise (a fan), which also helps.

    But yeah, running eases stress and I always notice that my sensitivity and annoyance levels go WAY up when I’m stressed.

  17. February 7, 2011 11:57 am

    I can hear my husband typing on his computer on the other side of the house, through two closed doors, and it’s enough to prevent me from being able to go to sleep.

    Listening to someone eat any food makes me want to punch people. I think being forced to listen to that, without being allowed to make noise of my own to cancel it out, is my personal version of hell.

    So, yes, I feel you.

    • February 7, 2011 7:26 pm

      Rose, I listen to AM radio or NPR to fall asleep. I can’t handle any quiet noise, so I make it louder and it’s all good. Until I wake up again. And don’t get me started on people eating bananas.

  18. bowenshea permalink*
    February 7, 2011 12:11 pm

    I.detest.whistling. Jack is Jiminy Cricket incarnate. I am forever yelling from my *upstairs* office at him in the kitchen, “STOP WHISTLING!!” Drives me loco! And one of the not-insignicant reasons I switched high schools: I couldn’t tolerate girls snapping their gum in assemblies. I kid you not.

    • teresadn permalink
      February 7, 2011 7:20 pm

      I completely agree. I had a co-worker at my old office who would whistle constantly and I just wanted to scream at him! He was a very talented musician, but his whistling drove me insane!

      • February 8, 2011 1:38 pm

        Amen to the no-whistling! The head of my department at work is a singer–she’s in several choirs–and you always know when she had a concert over the weekend because she whistles constantly in the office. Sometimes she sings, too, which is equally irritating to me. In fact, we have several singers in my office and when any of them sings it bugs me. I’m probably jealous–I sing like a strangled frog–but the whole Maria Von Trapp thing at the office makes me want to puke.

    • February 7, 2011 7:22 pm

      I don’t mind whisteling… as long as its no where around me. LOL. Wyatt, my 10 yr old, loves to walk around the house whistling too. Strange though. My Uncle James (whom i called my Jiminy Cricket) could sing and whistle all he wanted and it didnt bother me ever… of course he was the exception to the rule.

  19. Sarah permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:35 pm

    Oh this so me! I have supersonic hearing – which is not good for city living with paper-thin apartment walls and inconsiderate neighbors (if I can tell which song you’re listening to or TV show you’re watching just from the apartment hallway…turn it down!).

  20. February 7, 2011 12:40 pm

    Ha, ha ha…. I hate those little plastic recorder things… and whistles, bells, harmonicas… and yet that is exactly what the aunts and uncles keep buying my kids!! AhhhH!

  21. Robin permalink
    February 7, 2011 12:53 pm

    Everything is more tolerable after a run. Agreed!

  22. lvrunning permalink
    February 7, 2011 1:07 pm

    Nothing as bad as the sound of a newspaper being folded and a page being turned when you’re trying to go to sleep – I almost canceled our subscription to the NYT but then had would have to deal with the noise of family fury…

  23. JenericFN permalink
    February 7, 2011 3:04 pm

    funny coincidence – just today I was at lunch with my son at a fast food restaurant and was thinking “Man! It is so LOUD in here!” The mumble of voices, the beep of the fryer, chairs scraping on the floor, ice dropping into empty cups, a constant swish and click and rumble from the ice maker… it went on and on. My son has autism and is not normally super-sensitive but he actually looked uncomfortable and put his hands over his ears once. ugh. Noise pollution. This is why I stay up late when the rest of the family has conked out – silence.

  24. February 7, 2011 3:05 pm

    So glad I’m not the only one with this sensitivity!!! Eating noises (especially cereal with the slurp, crunch, smack – GAH), sniffling, and coughing are the worst for me – I feel like such a witch sometimes. I’m assuming running helps for me, but the biggest correlation I’ve found is that PMS makes my sensitivity to noise much, much worse – I can usually tell it’s that time of the month by how long I can handle a noise before I stomp out of the room/say something obnoxious (ARE YOU SURE YOU DON’T NEED A TISSUE? IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU DO)/want to hit someone or something so badly I resort to one of the aforementioned….

  25. Lynne Stacey permalink
    February 7, 2011 3:34 pm

    Had to laugh at the coughing part of the story because I can totally relate. I had to listen to both of my boys hack all week (they missed 3 days of school). We went out to dinner Friday night, and like you, in the car, one of them would not stop from coughing. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown because I needed some quiet. I believe I was also stressed because I was concerned as to why one of them was still coughing.

    • February 7, 2011 7:23 pm

      The worst part is being a captive audience. It’s not like you can just bail out a door at 65 mph. At least in an elevator there’s an out within 30 seconds or so.

  26. February 7, 2011 5:55 pm

    Thank you for this! The sound of eating (normal sounds like chewing, swallowing, etc.) grosses me out. I can hear my husband drinking his coffee, and it’s not like he’s slurping! And I’ve actually yelled at the (10 lb) dog to stop WALKING so loudly on the carpet, lol!

    • February 7, 2011 7:22 pm

      Oh, that’s one I forgot to mention, Crystal. Dog toenails clicking. Especially in the middle of the night. But love the 10 pound dog on the carpet: priceless!

  27. gloria permalink
    February 7, 2011 5:56 pm

    I love knowing I’m not alone! Unnecessary sound is the bane of my existent. Between my udder chewing husband and my 4 year old twinadoes, my world is NOISY! Sometimes I run with earbuds in but no music just to have an hour on mute!

    • February 7, 2011 7:21 pm

      Twinadoes: LOVE that word, Gloria. Perfect. My friend Jenny walks around her house with her iPod on in order to drown out the noise of her two boys.

  28. Erica Richards permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:04 pm

    Oh great! Another “illness” to add to my ever increasing list of ailments!! But, at least I know I am not alone. I think this runs in the family because when I was young and my siblings and I got “out of control”, my mother would just yell, “OUT ON THE GRASS!” and that was our cue to head outside to play. I say it to my kids too and have been known to send them outside to run around the house. I stand at the kitchen window and count laps. Mother of the Year will NEVER come my way. I’ll just have to work harder to place in my age group for my trophies. 🙂

  29. jord permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:09 pm

    Yes, yes and yes! My husband: “Just don’t listen to it.” Uh, what? Sorry, but part of having a matching set of X chromosomes means that my ears did not come equipped with an on/off switch. My son never gets chips because it drives me crazy listening to him chew them (in self defense, he nibbles on them like a squirrel making the whole process 10x louder and longer than necessary). He is 5 and has never owned a battery operated toy.

    My issues with noise started long before parenthood, though. I have diagnosed myself with aural hypersensitivity. That way, when I start to feel like my head is going to explode because someone near me is chewing gum I can think about my “diagnosis” and it helps me relax, even if I had to make it up in the first place. Because that’s not crazy. 😉

    • February 7, 2011 7:21 pm

      *That* is a nice sounding diagnosis, Jord: aural hypersensitivity. I am with you. Next time, I will channel that disease and convince myself I’m fine. Really.

  30. betty maguder permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:10 pm

    OMG. I am not alone! Chewing, pen clicking, gum snapping, loud footsteps, obnoxious laughter, nails typing on a keyboard, crinkling of chip bags….hacking (stop smoking or cover your mouth….yikes). This and more want to make me stick a fork in my eye! Alas, I am not perfect…my daughter tells me I gulp too loud and it’s gross….

  31. February 7, 2011 6:38 pm

    I absolutely cannot stand to hear unnecessarily loud tv’s. We have a tv at work in our lounge and my co-workers are CONSTANTLY blaring the volume to hear whatever they want to hear. Then they either leave the room, with said tv at said loud volume, or the commercials then come on, which are even *louder* than the program. It drives me absolutely up the wall. And they don’t just turn the volume up *just enough* to be able to hear what they want to hear, they CRANK IT UP.

    The other noise that gets to me is people who talk overly loud. My mom has this issue. She will almost be yelling when she’s talking to someone on the phone (whether its me, or I’m next to her while she’s talking on the phone). I’m constantly asking her to tone down the volume.

    Yup, basically anything that is louder than necessary… that’s what sets me off.

  32. Cynthia permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:41 pm

    I am a teacher and some days I just can’t handle the noise from my students and then I come home to my own two kids and husband, can you say neutron bomb? I just say it out loud, OMG, I NEED SOME PEACE AND QUIET! sometimes it works, other times, I just go into the farthest bathroom and shut the door! Sad place for some peace but, hey, gotta do what you gotta do!

    • February 7, 2011 7:19 pm

      I hear you, Cynthia: thank god for the bathroom fans, right?

  33. February 7, 2011 6:41 pm

    lol. i’m with you!
    i love my hubby so much, but he’s a loud drinker. seriously, i can hear him gulping from across the room! it drives me bonkers!

  34. February 7, 2011 8:58 pm

    Oh. My. Gosh. I’m not alone! Thanks, Dimity, for making me feel better about b*tching out my husband for his loud chewing. 🙂

  35. February 7, 2011 9:05 pm

    Hilarious…I thought I was the only one who thought background noise was deafining …I’m always telling my husband and kids to turn down the T.V when they are watching it…you know to a reasonable level of 10 out of 100. Yet when I want to watch a movie with them…I’m the deaf one and need it turned up so I can actually hear the conversation.

  36. February 7, 2011 9:33 pm

    You’re welcome any time but you wouldn’t last at our house. Oh my lord how loud a family of 7 can be. I just have to squint my eyes, been known to hold up both my hands out to everyone and say “please, quiet down” as the hair stands on the back of my neck and I grit my teeth. And recorders? NOT in the car, in your room, unless I’m in the 3 minute section of the month where I can tolerate the noise. One kid plays the cello (thankfully, now talented to not screech), another learning the violin and our only son, LOVES the recorder….. please, help me.

  37. Terri permalink
    February 7, 2011 9:55 pm

    It sure is reassuring to read that I am in good RLAM company when it comes to noise! I am even that way about noise I have to make and will occasionally wear ear plugs when I have to put a bunch of dishes away. I was amazed at how much happier I was at the task when I couldn’t hear how much noise I was making.

  38. Jackie permalink
    February 8, 2011 8:04 am

    I love that I’m not the only one who feels this way. My ears actually pound with the sound of even wind chimes. It physically hurts.
    And the whole coughing thing! My poor daughter spent 16 weeks one winter and 12 weeks the next with a major barking cough that no one could figure out how to cure. I sometimes just had to leave the house to get away from it. I know the doctors thought I was nuts (one actually tried to tell me Kate’s cough was psychosomatic), but I knew there was something seriously wrong. I actually hugged the doctor that finally figured out what was going on!

  39. Suzanne M permalink
    February 8, 2011 10:53 am

    LOVE this post!

    There is this lady who comes into the library once a week and while she is checking out her books and talking to me she is rattling a hard candy around her mouth and the sound literally makes me HATE her.

  40. February 9, 2011 5:40 am

    It’s not just me!! I thought of you all this morning when I flinched as my husband unwrapped a breakfast bar in another room…..and then I turned up my yoga podcast to try to avoid hearing him chew and turning newspaper pages. 🙂

  41. February 21, 2011 7:46 pm

    as if!

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