OCD Sound Sensitivity

Some sounds annoy me a little, while other sounds drive me batty!  These specific sounds are so annoying, that I get anxious or stressed to the point of agitation and anxiety.

I hate loud chewing, open mouth breathing, kissing sounds (only if it’s one set of lips like someone kissing a hand), dry skin being touched, tapping, leaky faucets and most of all ticking clocks.  I bought the coolest new alarm clock and within minutes of it being on, I took out it’s batteries.  I can’t sleep with any noise.  I think certain sounds bother me because I am already tense and it’s kind of like feeling tense or nervous and having someone poke you on the back repeatedly sending you surges of nervousness.

Being easily irritated to certain sounds is called: Soft Sound Sensitivity and for whatever reason, a lot of people with OCD seem to have it.

Most common sounds that annoy people with this specific sensitivity are: ticking clocks, animals grooming, chewing, tapping, nose whistles, and when people say the “S” sound.  For some people, it causes irritation and anger, while for others it’s more severe and can cause physical side effects like vomiting.

Some people wear ear plugs, but  I’ve never tried that.  If there is a leaky faucet, I fix it or find a way to cover the noise like with a fan.  I don’t use ticking clocks and as far as sounds that are out of my control like mouth breathing, I try to avoid that, plug my ears or drown out the sounds.  Avoidance seems to be the easiest solution for me since the problem is not bothering me all the time.  I get bothered when I hear that stuff, but I don’t hear that stuff all the time, so I can just deal with it.

32 thoughts on “OCD Sound Sensitivity

  1. I recently read something about this related to OCD. It makes so much sense! I have always been really sensitive to certain noises and thought it was normal. I sleep with a fan on to drown out any noises that might bug me. Some nights, the fan keeps me up, but most nights it’s fine.

    I HATE ticking clocks. That is definitely a sound that gets under my skin more than others. If I hear a ticking clock, I lose the ability to concentrate on anything else.

    • I get relief from the fan noise too! It’s intersting how a predictable humming noise is ok, but the predictable rhythmic pattern of a clock is just awful.

  2. Sounds sort of like my situation. My issue is hearing people speak. I can’t stand the sound of the letters P, C, K and G. It’s the saliva sounds or mouth sounds. Words like: Pine, Pie, Cat, Car, Go, Can, Kick, Con, Popular, Pain, Pay, Pioneer, Pile, Pipe, Gonna, Goat, Got, Walking, Carmel, Can’t, Candy and so many more. Spoken words that start with (or contain) an audible P, C, K or G. I want to hurt the person who says them around me. It also makes me very suicidal sometimes. I can’t work and I am on disability due to it. I avoid people as much as i can because I don’t want to hear them speak. I don’t watch tv or go to the movies or listen to the radio.

    • I have 11 year old granddaughters that have the same problem. Theirs are both different. One hates the word 20.The other she has several sounds, ool, ck,qu,words with L’s including her name. She is having such a hard time. So I feel for you. It gets so lonely. And don’t seem to be any help.

    • The condition is called Misophonia!
      I was involved in a group testing for it last year in San Diego. All of the things that bother you are the same things that bothered me! The noises caused me to have violent thoughts of how to make it stop- this was a common response believe it or not!

  3. JenMac, that is hysterical. Not taking anything away from you. I am in the same boat with different things but the fact that you said you want to hurt the person who says them cracks me up because I could literally shove my fist down someone’s throat when they say certain words or make certain noises.

    • My grandaughter feels that way too. Today she said she don’t want to live anymore. Because she cant stand to be around anyone because the say her “Tic” words. She is so sad. No one knows how to help her.

      • Gale,

        I would strongly encourage you to seek some therapy, either for your granddaughter or as a family unit. Family counseling is great because everyone can learn how to help each other. She is lucky that you are so concerned and caring for her and I wish your family luck and to hold on to strength.

      • There is a study into this problem at the univ of San Diego. It’s called Misophonia. I was involved in the study.

  4. Thanks for sharing.

    Well, finaly found I am not alone, Ticking Clocks, Leaking Taps, Crying Children and Traffic Noices simply drive me over the edge, I dont feel like hurting anyone, i just fold within myself, i cant do anything when near those sounds esp leaking Tap and Ticking Clocks. I cannot sleep with any regular noise around me, so i have to use ear plugs to sleep, which can sometimes get sore on the ear. About 2 years ago, I had serious issues with noise, I had always known i had some unique serious problems with certain sounds like ticking clocks, crying children and leaking taps and traffic noise. Things spilled out of control over 9 months, i had not slept for more than 2 hours each night or less, i went into coma and a huge clinical depression. And the then had to go through an extended ECT hell after other treatments failed, and it got much worse. Anyway, I am back from several blinks. Some Noise Canceling Headphones and ear plugs can sometimes be of invaluable help.

    • Hi Mark,

      It sounds like you have been through a lot and feeling alone with something like this can make it tougher so im glad you found my blog and others who also cant stand certain sounds. Im glad to hear you are alright now. Stat strong!

  5. Just ran across this blog post while doing a search for my condition. My big irritation is air conditioner noise as well as hearing TVs or music from neighbors. I can remember where the air conditioner noise started. Back in 1995, I was sick with a horrible flu. I was laying in bed for a few days and I then I started noticing this loud humming noise that was causing my walls to vibrate. It was coming from a roof-mounted air conditioner. I’d lived in the apartment almost half a year and never even noticed it. But as I laid there sick in bed, I then noticed it and it became louder and louder in my mind to point that it was almost driving me nuts. I then had to go on the roof and place rubber noise insulators under the unit to try and insulate the noise. Even that didn’t work 100%. Hearing it even a little bit was too much. I am now once again in a top floor apartment with roofmounted air-conditioners. There are also air-conditioners from the neighborhing apartment across the alley that at eye-level with my window. Now that it’s summer, these damn things are going off non-stop hearing all the humming and whirring noise. Sometimes I literally fantasize about taking a baseball bat and just smashing the damn things to pieces so I never have to hear the sound again. Then I get obsessively angry that people even have their air-conditioners on during days that aren’t even particularly hot. I don’t turn my on unless it’s over 90 degrees outside, and certainly not at night, I just open my windows to let cool night air in. The odd thing is, the sound of my own air-condition doesn’t bother me at all.

    Thus I have come to the conclusion that what this sound sensitivity really is, is a frustration from having no control. If I can control a sound, it bothers me. If I cannot control a sound plus find the sound annoying, it will drive me to virtual insanity. If it’s a pleasant sound that I can’t control, such as birds chirping(as I hear right now), I may or may not even notice it, and it doesn’t bother me.

    I’m not really sure what to do about this. This isn’t something that would bother 99.9% of the population. Admittedly the noise isn’t that big of a deal, but hearing any of it at all bothers me to the core.

    I don’t know much about OCD, but perhaps this is a symptom. I do have other OCD-ish symptoms such as being freakishly neat and clean and having little rituals I must do before going to sleep, and obsessively checking rooms and such. So maybe it all goes hand in hand.

    • it is interesting that this started for you when you were ill because often times when we are sick our senses are heightened. smells can cause nausea, flavors taste weird and sounds are infinity more piercing that usual. i also think you are spot on about what you said about control. thats a big issue for a lot of anxiety sufferers. when we are more comortable with the fact that we cannot control something, we find more peace.

  6. I have never heard of anyone else having my problem before, I am so comforted knowing I am not alone. My sound is hearing people eat. I can’t even be in the same room as my own husband and it is hurting our marriage. I can also remember the very minute it began but even with therapy I am not getting better. It makes me physically I’ll and I can’t explain the angry feelings I see white and red and I hate myself for this irrational anger over a noise that these ppl cannot control. I know my husband (everybody) needs to eat and I feel so out of control and I hate myself I can’t even have a nice meal with him and I make him feel so bad when he is trying so hard to help me. Please please please can anyone tell me something that will ease this unbearable pain. I don’t know how much longer I can handle it. My counselor says its OCD and PTSD but I don’t know how to just ignore the sounds of my family it gets worse everyday and the list is growing of sounds I can’t take. Any suggestions are so so welcome

    • Hi Stephanie,

      I an most certainly relate and am happy you stumbled on my blog because I think we have something very important in common and it is something that can get better.

      You mentioned hating yourself for feeling irrational anger. I would like to break this down to illustrate why it is so important.

      I feel hatred toward myself for feeling certain things. I get very angry at myself and feel guilt and shame. I’m guessing this is not foreign to you. The idea of hating oneself for experiencing a feeling is an interesting concept because it is this very practice that enables the anxiety. For example, if i get really angry at myself because I became anxious and obsessive and thought “what is wrong with me?!! i hate feeling this way! what i would give to be normal for once. i hate this!!” i would create a hyper sensitive and self deprecating situation in which things feel a whole lot worse. what if instead, if when i experience that same anxiety, i thought to myself “this is uncomfortable, but life cant always be perfect. this feeling will pass and in the mean time, ill just wait till it does”. its like stubbing your toe. you could jump around on one foot and scream profanities or you could take a deep breath and observe the unpleasant sensation for what it is, rather than interpreting it as awful, bad, unfair, fucked up, etc. id say the second response allows for better peace of mind. part of this concept is called “dirty pain”. It’s pretty helpful to think about. like, if you stub your toe, that zinging acute pain in your foot is real and clean pain. that psychological angry response is dirty pain in that it does not need to exist. im learning this in therapy where we use a lot of mindfulness based techniques in which at home i practice observing my thoughts without judgment because believe me, we are all miserable enough without our thoughts adding nasty messages and judgments to us.

      my biggest advice is to keep working at it. its great you are trying and its important to give yourself praise for that. i have noticed that the more i practice giving myself a break and showing myself compassion, that the times in which i get anxiety flare-ups are not nearly as bad as they used to be. another way to look at it is if you take a toddler to the playground and they fall over. if you run over and freak out in worry, chances are the kid will cry a whole lot. if you instead, check on the kid and dont make a huge deal out of it, chances are the kid will move on. hope this makes sense!

      dont lose hope!

    • Stephanie, You are not alone! This condition is called Misophonia. I was involved in a study at the univ of Sam Diego last year. They hooked me up to a heart monitor and some other machines, put headphones on, they played a video and audio of all of the trigger sounds, I was asked to rate each sound 1-10 as to how annoying it was. All of my ratings were 10’s of course, and the test was torture, slurpings, tapping, ticking, chewing, licking, crunching, P words, S words, Indian accents etc. they are working on a treatment, but I’m sure that’s years away! But I have to say I was soooo happy just to know this is a real thing, and it wasn’t just me! Hang in there!

    • Stephanie, try yoga and meditation. You must practice the meditation everyday; start with forty-five minutes. It gets easier and easier.

  7. ive been living with these problems for a long time. i was diagonose with ocd last year and have been put on the medication prozack (sory for the bad spelling im also dycleic) the meds help i am alot mor liked by people and i can handle everything beter. earplugs help but they are annoying, fans and nosie maschins help as well, and ipods are good. i am glad to know im not the only one out there with this problame

    • CBT, ACT and and “talk therapy” are all types of therapies that have very good success rates for treating OCD. I found ACT to be very helpful to me.

  8. Oh my gosh, I am glad I found this blog/thread…I have a home daycare and I am also a writer. I have turned into a very isolated and anti-social person. I am very sensitive to noise and the presence of others. My daycare is in the basement and I have a little office down here. I have a camera so I know when people are coming downstairs. If my family comes down when I m busy or working on something I go crazy. I am like,”Leave me the hell alone.” (I don’t say that but I feel it.) I don’t like people watching me or in my space. I especially don’t like people watching me when I eat..if a person has already eaten and is having a conversation with me but not eating, I go bonkers. I don’t like various sounds like clicking, tapping, the TV being on, a ticking clock, whispering, etc. I don’t like to go to social events. My boyfriend has a huge family and they are always having get togethers. I cannot stand going! When my own family has a get together for a holiday or something I get anxiety before we leave..obsessing over my clothes. I am very self-conscious about my appearance and my weight and weigh myself every morning. I obsess over every little 1/2 pound. I obsess over everything I put in my mouth because I don’t want to get fat. I exercise compulsively and when I am injured or cannot exercise for some other reason, I feel like I am going crazy. Even when I take a day off my exercise routine, I feel depressed and like a fat cow. I am only 5’10 and 137 so this is not an issue. But I obsess over how I look in a swimsuit. I also would love to have breast implants because I am very self-conscious about my very small chest. If I could I would have implants and tons of plastic surgery…wow I am basically a nut job. When I am getting ready to go somewhere I cannot have anyone near me..or in the bathroom. I could write morof my obsessive tendencies but that would take writing a book. Oh and that reminds me…I spellcheck everything and do not like grammar or spelling errors in my work or the writing of others.

    • So glad I found this thread. I have bipolar disorder with OCD. I literally panic (like now) when hearing the neighbors across the bedroom wall from ours. I have even left a nice note explaining I can hear his loud voice and TV. Apparently, that did little. Admittedly, it’s probably not that bad. But for me it causes me to put my head against the wall to focus on what it is. I can’t sleep; just took Zzz Quil. I have a rapid heartbeat and just get very angry. The fan and a/c and my own TV being on helps a lot to calm me down. I just wish I could learn a trick to not be bothered by typical apartment noise that sometimes can’t be avoided. Also, my husband has moments where he snores super loud for a few seconds and it kills me.

  9. Hey,
    I have all the syndromes that u mentioned above.
    Please is there any cure or anyway to be able to remove them.
    I cant sleep. please help.

    • It’s a pretty complex answer, but reduce the sounds as much as you can at the important times, like sleep. Sometimes white noise helps or ear plugs. Overall, it’s about reducing your anxiety in general. Therapy is a good option.

  10. Ticking clocks, snoring, dripping water all drive me insane, I can’t stand the constant repetitive sound and the ironic thing is, I’m a professional drummer! There is something about the predictability of the sound that makes me latch on to it and it really hacks me off – perhaps because it is sound that I have no control over?

    Anyway standard solution of ear plugs (unless they fall out) or a flamethrower to the nearest time piece have seen me through so far but this definitely seems to be a more widespread problem than I realised!

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