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Intolerance to Noise

Intolerance to Noise

Introduction

When the brain is injured, most of the brain’s energy and attention is diverted to basic functioning. It is this necessary process, one that is designed to sustain life, which causes people to struggle with filtering ‘incoming’ environmental information after a brain injury.

Sounds perceived as being normal to other people can be intolerable to people who have sustained a brain injury. We should be able to filter out background noise, but a brain injury can lead to the brain needing to learn all over again what is safe to filter and what isn’t

A lot of people use earplugs to block out noise. However, it is best to see an audiologist who will be able to prescribe specific ear filters. An audiologist will also be able to diagnose and manage any particular hearing problems that may occur as a result of brain injury.

Lifestyle changes

Sounds that we are usually tolerant of can induce stress and fear in people following a brain injury. There is often a recognition that something is ‘wrong’ and yet people are unable to control how incoming information enters the brain. Because of slowed processing, it can take the brain a long time to be able to work out the difference between what is a potential danger and what is normal background noise, so it stops filtering for safety reasons.

Sounds that shouldn’t be terrifying can induce states of panic and trigger the flight/fight responses, which can be extraordinarily difficult to manage.

Everyday life can be affected to the extent that people stop socialising, or they learn to go out when there are fewer people around, such as mid-morning, or mid-afternoon.

Oxidative Stress

Interestingly, there are links between oxidative stress and noise intolerance. Oxidative stress is a common outcome of brain injury and occurs as part of the secondary outcomes.

When we eat for nutrition, we include antioxidants and flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables in our diet, and these naturally help to combat the abundance of free radicals caused by oxidative stress.

Resources

ABI Resources – Sensitivity to noise/phonophobia

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