I have a love / hate relationship with background noise.
On the one hand back ground noise helps me, and on the other hand it makes the world inaccessible.
Let me explain.
Background noise can come in different forms. There are background noises which are continuous, like fridges humming. There are background noises which are not continuous, but come and go, for example public transport. And there are background noises which I can control, for example, listening to music.
So what are the reasons why I love back ground noise?
I have auditory hallucinations, which includes hearing voices, hearing sounds such as music, beeping, sirens, and other similar sounds.
I have mental tics, which are like vocal tics but inside my head. Words, phases, and sounds repeat themselves in my mind. I also have intrusive thoughts as part of my OCD. These can be often violent or gruesome thoughts, which I do not want.
I have several anxiety conditions which can cause mild/moderate paranoid thoughts.
I also have a psychotic condition which can cause moderate/severe and long standing paranoid thoughts.
With all this going on when I say my mind is noisy and busy I mean it literally. I find it extremely hard to escape the mental tics, intrusive thoughts, hallucinations, and paranoia.
Background noise becomes a way in which I can sort of distance myself from a noisy mind. It becomes a bit of a distraction and produces nicer noise for me to hear.
The background noise I am talking about being useful for me here is things like music, podcasts, radio, television, and sensory sounds like waves or rain.
Every night I have to listen to something to get to sleep, usually it is comedy of some form. Its also usually comedy I have heard before as I am not wanting something I need to actually listen too, it is something familiar and nice needed in the background. Without this my insomnia gets a lot worse and I get swamped by noise in my mind.
When in my flat I usually have headphones on and am listening to either music, a podcast or radio comedy, or an app which has different sounds like waves or rain. I will listen to something through headphones for most of the day, unless I am watching the television or a film.
The last few days I have been having the TV on all day as it is the European Championships, and I do not need to continuously watch, I can dip in and out, but there is noise from the TV which is helpful noise.
So in this sense background noise which I can control is helpful.
So what are the reasons why I hate background noise?
Well I am autistic, with sensory and auditory processing disorders. This means that background noises can mean I cannot hear what others are saying to me, I often cannot join in conversations, I get distracted easily by background noises, and noises can overwhelm me which can lead to sensory overload and meltdowns.
With all this background noises can be extremely distressing for me.
This background noise is usually not one I am controlling, so this could be sounds such as fridges humming and clocks ticking, transport, sirens, talking, others music etc.
Sounds easily overwhelm me and I often feel isolated in groups of people talking, as I just cannot process the individual voices I need to listen too.
Background noises become one big group of noise which hurts my head, it is like several fire engines all at once right next to me and nothing else can be heard except just this mass of sound.
When background noise is low I can function better. I have excellent noise cancelling headphones, which I can also connect to my phone and listen to something through them.
This means that I can reduce unwanted background noise, and play something like the sounds of waves to help keep some wanted noise to distract from the above stuff.
This will mean that if you see me in an offline capacity then I will be wearing earphones, and likely playing something through them.
If I cannot hear you then please do not tell me to remove my earphones, as they are helping me massively. I just likely need to get the settings correct for the environment, and even then if my voices or intruisive thoughts are bad I will struggle to concentrate on listening to people. And the more overwhelmed I am the more I struggle to process speech from others.
Wearing my earphones is actually helping me in several ways
Allow me wear them without hassle.
2 thoughts on “My love/hate relationship with background noise”
Oliver, thank you for this post. Its very inspiring.
Thank you, Oliver. You reminded me of the idea of noise-canceling headphones as a tool for people with similar struggles. You don’t hear a lot about mental tics, intrusive thoughts, etc. I know people are experiencing all of this. Thank you for sharing it.