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When Your Friend Is Highly Sensitive To Sound

I know a lot of HSP’s who suffer from being sensitive to sounds. It doesn’t mean that they have some super acute hearing, but rather that their body feels a lot of different and subtle sound vibrations that affect their systems and moods almost subconsciously. So what do you do when you realise that you or someone you know gets uncomfortable in busy places and noisy environments?

Firstly, lets look at some common reasons for irritation of HSP’s with acute sensitivity to sound. For me personally, and I think many can relate, I get disturbed by background noises. Just yesterday I was on the call with my friend and she was on the bus, and suddenly I can hear the bus saying the name of the next stop, so I just stopped and couldn’t talk until it was gone. Other reasons can be: alarms, phone notifications, wind, radio, chewing, or tapping.

Be aware of these reasons, but never think that they all belong to your friend. There can be more or even more subtle sounds that are not on the list. It is always a good idea to ask whether something is bothering them. And, you might not get a clear answer the first time, but keep doing that and your friend will get used to it and will start to see that you’re there for them.

Now, lets talk about what is in your control when you know that your HSP friend is not enjoying your time together because of any of the above reasons.

As an HSP, when I find myself in a situation where I know I’m so overwhelmed with all of the sounds, I always wish that I could get just a second of silence so I can get my head in order. So, if you have a highly sensitive friend, I suggest that you stop talking for a moment. Get used to those awkward silences! And, unfortunately, talking quieter doesn’t always help, especially if you’re in a noisy environment. By not talking you are giving your friend freedom from one of the noise sources in the pallet of their overwhelm.

I think some fellow HSP’s also have been in a situation where they phase out for a moment and by the time they are back to the present, their friends say something like ‘Hello, is anybody in there?’. I noticed that for me that is mostly due to being overwhelmed with different sounds to a degree when I literally stop paying attention to anything for a moment. For others, however, it looks like I’m standing still, staring into nowhere, or just doing nothing.

When you see your HSP friend being a little distracted, you can take the situation in your control without calling them out or getting irritated. Not only you’ll avoid shaming your friend for just trying to get thought the day when they are already doing their best, but also they will know that they can trust you more.

While it is not your responsibility that your HSP friend deals with their sensitivity, you can create a supportive environment that a lot of highly sensitive people need.

Thank you for reading this post, and I’ll see you this Saturday for a flash fiction piece about sound sensitivity to illustrate how it feels for HSP’s to deal with being overwhelmed by sounds.

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By Jevgenija Zukova

I'm a second year university student doing Accounting and Finance course. I stand together with other female entrepreneurs to bring sensitivity into the business world, fun of art and creativity into local communities, and awareness of highly sensitive people.

5 replies on “When Your Friend Is Highly Sensitive To Sound”

I had a little boy at my school who was sensitive to sounds – he just could not function if there was too many sounds… so they would send him to me in the office…

I had a set of noice cancelling headphones made specifically for this…

It always worked … it would take awhile for him to relax after putting them on… but then he would be ok to go back to class and he would usually just keep the headphones on.

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Absolutely a great example of helping a sensitive boy to experience life better!
But I have a feeling that wasn’t just any sound sensitivity that HSP’s can struggle with. There are some clinical diagnoses which sound more like what you described. A lot of HSP’s I know told me that they would just be playing alone, when they were very young, to avoid overstimulation.
I never heard that it would benefit a highly sensitive child to use noise cancelling headphones.

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He did have a lot of issues, and did not have any friends – he had a level of autism as well. He didn’t speak much – and when he did … it was on a younger level the way he put the sentences together. But he was very very very smart!

There were some days… that for the most part he did really well – but if was a bad day… it was a really bad day.

The other kids were really sweet kind and thoughtful to him… (we had really amazing kids) … but I think they may have been a little scared and not really know how to take him?

They would always try to include him. It was hard for him – he would usually want to come sit in the office

I had these Glass tubes… filled with sand… and inside the sand were little toy trinkets – I had a list of items in that sand to find … and he loved those – he would sit there and just turn it and turn it until he found every item… he loved those!!

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