The Toxicity of Noise


Empaths are often sound sensitive and have a lower tolerance for noise. It’s important that we empaths honor our sound sensitivity and do our best to create an environment that is quiet and peaceful.

For myself and many empaths, loud noises are painful and anxiety-provoking. We have an enhanced startle response and are super-reactive to intense sensory input. Toxic noise penetrates and shocks our bodies. When a siren passes by, I always put my hands over my ears because the sound of the siren goes right through my system. Also noisy neighbors and barking dogs can intrude on our privacy and impact our serenity. As I’ve re-learned with my noisy neighbors, when they drink their voices get super-loud though they don’t realize it.

Studies show that noise has a powerful physical effect on our brains and increases stress, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, hypertension and heart disease. Being chronically exposed to toxic noise can cause stress hormones to rise which decreases our immunity and peace of mind.

One workshop participant told me, “We endured two years of horrific renovation in our New York apartment. It made my husband and I exhausted and sick. Plus, to cope with stress, I’d binge on carbs which wasn’t healthy.” Though this is an extreme example of toxic noise–there are many lesser kinds including traffic, sirens, barking dogs, loud televisions, and partying neighbors.

When your environment has lower levels of sensory input, your brain can recover its cognitive clarity. Spending time alone in silence allows your mind to relax. Creating periods of quiet allows you to recover from the intensity of our fast-paced world. You may not realize how much the toxicity of noise drains you. Sometimes you can barely hear yourself talk, let alone listen to your intuition. Loud restaurants. Sirens. Jackhammers. Incessant talking. In response, you may unconsciously wall off your sensitivities for protection and walk around defended or shut down.

Here are 7 strategies to help empaths cope with excessive noise from my book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People.”

    • Identify the noise offenders and develop a plan to approach them.
    • Get white noise/sound machines which let you hear the ocean or rain or other sublime moods of nature.
    • Use sound-blocking ear buds or headphones in a noisy environment or take a “sound break” where it is quiet.
    • Meditate to calm your physiology.
    • Observe a “no” loud noise rule in your home.
    • Visualize a luminous golden egg of light surrounding you that repels the toxicity of loud noises.
    • Create healthy boundaries with sound-offenders. (Try to keep your calm with neighbors but be consistent with the boundaries you want to set.)
    • Be in nature to replenish your energy and ground yourself.

Plan at least five minutes of silence a few days a week. This is sacred time when no one can intrude. For highly sensitive empaths, quiet is a balm for the soul. It lets us have time to do the deep processing of life that we yearn for, and it provides open space for our creativity to roam and soar.

30 thoughts on “The Toxicity of Noise

  1. I so often think to myself, “I just want the world to be quiet.” My husband knows not to the empty the dishwasher when I’m around because I can’t tolerate the noise. The sound of my neighbors’ voices drives me back inside, even when it’s nice out. When I am alone in a quiet setting, I feel a deep sense of calm come over me.

    I get depressed if I do not have long periods of solitude and silence; I can actually feel the chemical change taking place in my body when this happens. I made the mistake of going on a two-week cruise to the Antarctic with my husband; it was his last continent to visit, and he really wanted to go, so I agreed, but I was so worried about my ability to cope. After a week, all I could think was, “This is soul-crushing. I need to get off this boat.” I was sick for a few days in the middle of the last week. I didn’t want to be sick, but still, it was so much nicer than having breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a large group of noisy people.

    I am so glad to know that I am not alone! Thank you!

  2. I want it quiet all the time. when I watch tv, it is on a very low volume. I rather put the words on and put mute button on then watch tv with sound. especially the commercials…

    I can not tolerate dogs barking, machines running, even the fridge is too loud. especially when its repetitive noise. I can manage to enjoy birds chirping, wind blowing, rain falling or soft piano music as long as its all background.

    I really enjoying your informative blogs. Thanks.

  3. 5 minutes? I need like 5 days of silence. I have no tolerance for chaotic or loud noise. It short circuits my entire system.

  4. Oh, boy. I am an empath and introvert and I haven’t had peace and quiet for 15 months now. I am a single mother working full time from home during the pandemic with my 8 year old energetic incredibly loud son with me 24/7. I am so burned out, I can’t even tell you! Finally getting back in to yoga and it’s already helping. I am hoping he will start joining me for my virtual class because I know he is an empath too and struggles with sensitivity to noise and energy himself. Our feelings bounce back and forth to each other all day long.

  5. Now I know why get so anxious and reach for munches when I visit my parents. They have TV on so loud in a high ceiling room that send sound to entire house! Addition to that, I have a rare hearing condition called hyperacusis which amplifies the normal volume of sound to multiple times louder by innate biology of inner ear structures… and yes, I am here as an empath already sensitive and prone to sound and energy of others.

    Above all, I feel relieved to know what makes me crave for. carbs at parent’s home now and I can wear some earplugs when visiting. I used to retreat to hotel room on my own to stay away from the noises of the old wooden floors in the house… totally makes sense why I was doing all those behaviors that did not make sense to anyone in my family.

    Thank you Dr. Orloff! Your works give me so much sense of relief and self-confidence knowing that I am okay, nothing is wrong with me. 🙂

  6. I haven’t flown in 7 years and recently flew across country.
    The planes have gotten thinner in construction and the noise and vibration from the engines were like torture for me. I got a horrible migraine on the flight and thought I’d throw up any moment.
    I got to my destination and felt so much better once off the plane.
    I finally figured out the connection between myself as an HSP and the noise, so I bought head cancelling headphones for the flight home. It cut the noise out about 50% but enough to get thought the flight, read my book and survive intact when I got home. Now I can feel I can travel again, but at first I felt like I would never fly after that horrible experience.

  7. I honestly don’t know how to deal with the plethora of sudden loud noises that my husband emits. The loud and constant nose blowing, louder still sneezes and farts, the constant throat clearing and worst of all, the super loud “lugee hawking” sounds all day long! There is usually no warning and I am beside myself. It’s bad enough that he won’t shut his mouth and be quiet for any length of time. I’m most likely going to have to leave my home to get away from these sounds.

  8. “Be still and know that I am God, in quietness and confidence will be your strength”. Two instructions our Creator left us , good advice to practice daily.

  9. Oh yes!! This is so validating. Even the uneven drone of a tv is unsettling to me. I want to be able to think my own thoughts without intrusions. Some sounds that my mind translates as “happy noise” don’t disturb me, like children playing. Perhaps it’s our underlying drive to be helpful that some sounds trigger, and we feel like we have to do something for somebody.

  10. I love this article and can relate to the sensitivity to neighbour noise-the loud footfall above me, from their aerobic exercise or just dancing around on a Friday night. But the one thing I want to say is this: it isn’t always possible to approach our neighbours, or to get through to them (if we approach them)-many people are not sympathetic and get very defensive and angry when you ask them to keep X, Y or Z down. I’ve had noisy neighbours (on and off) above me in my apartment block for years & many of them just don’t care. Living in an apartment building can be incredibly stressful for many empaths as it can impact our sleep negatively, and then *everything* is impacted the following day.

  11. I used to think I was empath because all the things I’d pick eg thought that were not my this scare friends because I did not know what was and I’d more or less get all judiths correct for me maybe it’s a different kind of empath I know sound does not bother unless the harmonies are wrong. I’ve had that many odd experience ‘s probably clairsentient or a mixed bag of everything which started when I was about three years old. I’m an old man now I still pick up things from people now and then my policy is don’t go looking for it . It finds me

  12. I’m thankful to hear my “startle response” is not to wonder if I was in a terrible war in another life. It’s instantaneous and my visual expression actually scares other people. I apologize to THEM for the scare. Maybe the empath knowing will help:)

  13. Thank You. I agree . For years the constant noise in busy hospitals from overhead paging, alarms, and ringing phones on top of the noise of people filling halls was exhausting. When given the opportunity I was able to help design a large building consolidating all outpatient Cancer services into one location designed to be safe. Safety features included antimicrobial surfaces on all touchable surfaces to decrease infection, clear direction finding, comfortable lighting, and use of individual communication devices and planned building noise suppression eliminating overhead paging, loud nurse calls, background music, and TV distractions. The building is definitely quieter and hopefully safer. The decrease in loud noise definitely improved communication and hopefully decreased toxic stress.

  14. This is so to the point and what I have also practised and found especially useful when I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalopia ME Chronic fatigue( having a hard time accepting anything being chronic theough 🙂 )
    Grateful to be better🙏❤️

  15. I’ve been tortured for two years by a new next door neighbor who seems to use his power tools 6 days a week right outside my windows. I have asked, I have gotten 2 expensive noise canceling headphones, I have turned on music, I have rented hotel rooms when I absolutely had to get away, I have slept in the backseat of my car under trees when I couldn’t pay for another hotel room, all to no avail. On any given day, suddenly and without warning, noxious loud noises will send my heart rhythm off the charts.
    I am wondering if you know of any acoustic solutions that would act like a boomerang , preventing the noise from his driveway (3 feet from my windows) from reaching me and instead bouncing back towards the source of the noise.
    Thank you for bringing up this issue!

  16. You are so right about how noise can affect us. I had an upstairs neighbor that paced for hours and early in the morning slammed things in her bedroom. Which was right over mine. The toxic environment this created was awful. I did get noise canceling earbuds but when she moved that was the tonic. Now I can tell how very much this affected me. Also don’t understand very loud music in restaurants. Very disturbing. Thanks Judith for reassurance that we are ok in this world.

  17. Truer words were never spoken. As a mom of a beautiful, wonderful 27 year old autistic man who loves to make constant noise, I cherish every moment of silence. I meditate while he sleeps, and I wait until everyone leaves the house before I shower so that I won’t have to deal with knocks or anyone trying to talk to me through the door. I just took Dr. Orloff’s online course, and I can’t begin to tell you the peace it is bringing to my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  18. Hello Judith, you are SO right about the toxicity of noise. I’ve had to move from the country into the city because of covid and the sounds are overwhelming and exhausting. I also have issues with a neighbour who teases my dog, through my apartment door by making as much noise as possible and giggles when he gets all worked up…causing both him and I major stress and anxiety…then complains that my dog is barking too much??? It takes a certain kind of person to take pleasure from others pains. I had to call the police one night because it was totally out of control. The kicker is that I was more worried about disturbing the rest of the building than they were…It’s hard to remain calm with these types of neighbors because there is no talking to them. Sometimes I wish I could let go of my dog’s leash when I see them and have them deal with what they’ve created by teasing him and laughing at him from a place of safety. Next time, I will open my apartment door, hold my dog and then allow him to just go off on them…scare them with their own consequences face to face. Sometimes, I think that this pandemic has brought the worst out of some people. Sad reality!!!

  19. I have recently moved to a new office that is right NEXT to the railroad tracks with a crossing. I recently counted 50 trains throughout the day, and this is everyday. Not only are the horns disturbingly loud it shakes our building. I have literally been sick with headaches and anxiety since I’ve been here. I feel the bad mood come as soon as I hear the crossing warning signals. I’ve always known I’ve been sensitive to loud noises and have the felt the effects, but this has thrown me over the edge.

    Thank you for the post!

  20. Thank you so much ..knowing about you from one of the conferences I once attended, & reading your articles really normalized me & explained lots of things I didn’t have a clue for.

  21. I am extremely sensitive to all the noises you describe Judith! It’s so validating to know I’m not the ONLY one! Even whining screaming babies get on my nerves! It’s so hard for me to cope!

  22. I wish your tips included how to deal with children. These tiny offenders live in our homes, and don’t listen to the healthy rules and boundaries we are trying to set.

  23. Thank you so much. I have always felt like a wimp because I could not stand loud noises and needed quite time to replenish. I remember my mother telling me that as a toddler and little girl, I would cry at 4th of July fireworks displays and cover my ears. Now I sometimes let out a scream when my husband walks around a corner and I’m not expecting him. He says “I’m your husband. I live here” and we both laugh. Fortunately he is understanding and supportive of my needs. I also need to lay down and meditate after a long conversation with a friend. I guess it’s just part of my self care.

  24. Gosh…. I so long for quietness and yet in the quiet I am agitated with an extreme tinnitus and hyperacusis.
    Getting better now two years past with cleaning up my diet and tinnitus much lower but I am still anxious.
    I long for the day I return to normal hearing and peace of mind with the stress of it all.

  25. This is comforting to read this. I forget I’m ok and I’m an EMPATH. I just moved to Georgia in a really nice home and nice yard. But I am again dealing with loud traffic noise barking dogs. And I had hoped I would not need to use all my tools. But I have to. My ear plugs. Fans. White noise. Headphones. Music. Nature. I will attend your workshop

  26. This is very timely for me. We have close friends staying the weekends right now (we are all vaccinated!!), one of which likes to listen to movies on FULL volume. They are in the movie industry (working on one here now) and I think kind of see it like mimicking the drama of a theater.. and like the way you are supposed to watch a film (with the volume on max).
    This is a good time for me to read this article because I am regularly recognizing my desire to keep the noise to a minimum around others who don’t and I tend to feel self conscious. Now these are my dear friends so they don’t judge me.. it is ME who does the judging.. and I want them to be comfortable too.
    I guess what I am saying it is it good to input affirmation that this is not a matter of me being a pain in the butt.. it is a real discomfort with real consequences.
    So thank you for posting!!

  27. Dr. Orloff

    Read this article, as well as other Blogs you’ve written, and traced it back to your Website (good find!).

    I’ve struggled with noise issues. Places we’ve lived have been “agonizingly” noisy. Then to make matters worse, I was in a car wreck. Am OK after an emergency room visit, but the air bag blowing up (BTW, that is a small bomb) just a couple feet from my head has left me with tinnitus. Now noise is magnified. Jets flying overhead feels MUCH too close, etc. I wake up with what I describe as “jungle chirping” in my head.

    Have you covered such matters in your writings or can you suggest resources?

    Am coping. My GP has examined ears for physical damage and it’s OK. He suggested to either 1) Cope with it or 2) Surgery (argh!). Being a typical “guy” I’m going with choice #1.

    I appreciate your Blogs. Thanks.

    Dr. Steve Minor
    Sun City, AZ

  28. I’ve told my brother how much I hate noise – he thinks I’m nuts. Thanks for the validation. (It also doesn’t help having c-ptsd.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *