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15. Sensitivities to Background Noise

The ability to filter and process multiple sensory inputs simultaneously is a remarkable human trait. Yet, for some, the background noise of daily life isn’t just a mere annoyance; it’s a persistent challenge, making concentration difficult and sometimes leading to discomfort.

Why It’s Challenging

Whether it’s the hum of a refrigerator, chatter in a café, or the distant sound of traffic, background noise can be particularly distracting for certain individuals. This sensitivity can be attributed to a heightened auditory system or sometimes an underlying neurological condition.

Supporting Ourselves and Others

Recognising the challenges faced by those sensitive to background noise is the first step. By adapting our environments and employing specific strategies, we can create spaces where everyone can focus and function optimally.

Practical Steps to Manage Sensitivity to Background Noise

  • Ear Protection: Using noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs can significantly reduce background disturbances.
  • Adapt the Environment: Consider adding soft furnishings, plants, or soundproofing materials in spaces to dampen noise. Rethinking how we approach our living spaces can have a profound effect.
  • Sound Therapy: Listening to white noise, soft instrumental music, or nature sounds can mask disruptive noises. It’s a balance between masking the noise and understanding the complexities of abstract concepts like ‘silence’.
  • Communicate: If you’re in shared spaces, communicate your sensitivity to others. This can help others understand if you need space and quiet or lead to collective solutions such as designating ‘quiet hours’.
  • Seek Professional Help: If sensitivity is severely affecting your life, consult an audiologist or therapist to explore potential underlying causes and solutions.


  • Focus Spaces: Many workplaces now offer ‘focus rooms’ or spaces specifically designed for quiet work. These spaces often merge concepts from both living skills and organisation.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Methods like deep breathing or meditation can help in desensitising oneself to background noise, turning a source of anxiety into one of relaxation.
  • Timing Tasks: Completing tasks requiring deep focus during quieter times of the day, or even during the night, can be an effective strategy for some.
  • Soundscapes: Apps that create customisable ambient soundscapes can help mask disruptive noises and create a personal sound environment that aids concentration.

Daily Change Summary

Navigating a world full of noise can be particularly challenging for those sensitive to background sounds. Yet, by understanding the underlying causes and employing practical steps, it’s possible to create an adapted and more understanding environment.

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