Irritability To Noise Increases As We Age

Our irritability to noise can increase as we age

Loud noise can become more irritating as we age. Loud environments such as restaurants, social gatherings, airplanes, loud traffic and even loud voices can become irritating. As a result, these loud sounds in our everyday life can become harder to tolerate. Increased sensitivity to loud noise has an impact on our quality of life, especially regarding stress levels, anxiety and sleep.

The amygdala, is the control center for processing our emotions. Interestingly, it is closely linked to our hearing system. Our hearing system and amygdala process sounds and evoke emotional response. For example, the sounds of a bird chirping can make us happy while the sound of traffic can be irritating. As our ears become more sensitive to loud noises, negative emotions in association to these sounds that we hear can become a reality.

What about ear plugs?

Hearing everything in our environment is important. It’s not recommended to dampen our perception of sounds, as it can result in a greater negative response to noise over time. That being said, a good pair of noise cancelling earphones or filtered ear plugs can be handy in certain situations if used occasionally.

Every person is unique, thus their response to noise is different. Some noises are irritating for some while others simply won’t be bothered by them. If a sound becomes overbearing, it can have a negative impact on our enjoyment of any situation. If multiple noises are consistently irritating, a strong link between those sounds and negative emotions by the amygdala might have been made. These situations can be evaluated by an audiologist and appropriate recommendations can be made.

“A Noisy Problem” from Harvard Men’s Health Watch, Harvard Health Publications, Copyright 2019 by President and Fellows of Harvard College.

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