Sensitivity to Sound in Women with High Stress Levels

High stress levels can cause sensitivity to soundDid you know—women susceptible to experiencing large amounts of stress may become more sensitive to sounds. In fact, noises heard throughout a typical daily routine can become unbearable to women, a study found. Health professionals are suggested to take these results in consideration when diagnosing hearing problems. Sensitivity to sound is something that most people are unaware of and can easily be justified as simple irritability.

Emotionally exhausted and outright stressed women can have higher sensitivity to sound, according to a newly conducted study. Even a normal conversation can become painful to these women, making doctors responsible for considering their patients’ levels of both stress and exhaustion when treating their hearing problems, as found by the Swedish study.

“If you’re hypersensitive to sounds, normal sounds like rattling cutlery or rumblings of a car engine can become ear-piercing, [and] since it’s common for many individuals to work in environments with different kinds of potentially disturbing sounds, this type of hypersensitivity can become very disabling for certain individuals,” as said by Dan Hasson, associate professor at the Karolinska Institute’s department of physiology and pharmacology in a recent news release of theirs.

High Stress Level Study Relates Sensitivity To Sound

Through conducting the study, the research enlisted the help of 208 women and 140 men, ranging from ages 23 to 71 with low, medium, and high levels of emotional exhaustion. Each participant later became exposed to physical and mental stress over a period of five minutes.

Physical stress depicted the participants placing their hands into ice. The mental stress portion of the test allowed them to be observed in a socially stressful situation.

Even though no groups were found to have different sensitivities to sound before being exposed to stress, the study later revealed the women with higher levels of emotional exhaustion became much more sensitive to sound after stress exposure, than that of the women who weren’t exhausted. Some women, in fact, even found normal conversations too loud.

In contrast, participants with low exhaustion levels were much less sensitive to sound after stress; when compared to their counterparts. The researchers later pointed out that the aforementioned result was a normal reaction to stress.

“More serious forms of sound hypersensitivity can force people to start isolating themselves, in order to avoid potentially stressful environments and situations,” Hasson continued, who also has an affiliation with Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute. The study indicated that exhaustion level and stress were peripheral factors that should be considered when diagnosing and treating hearing problems.

Even though a similar trend did affect the men, the differences weren’t as statistically significant, as noted by the study’s authors.

Managing Your Stress Response

The findings of these studies, though they may seem abnormal, are quite typical when considering the clinical aspects of stress. The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress ResponseSM is the system through which our bodies cope with and process stress. The reason that auditory distortions are not uncommon in high stress individuals as that there is an increased level of activity in the brain during stress. The entire body is in a heightened state of awareness during the fight and flight response, triggered through the hypothalamus at the base of the brain.

Stress hormones and sensitivity to soundThe hypothalamous is part of what’s called the HPA axis, the structure which handles the majority of the NEM Stress Response. During the last stage of the HPA axis process, the adrenal glands are activated to produce stress hormones, the one of most important note being cortisol. When cortisol is released there are a host of reactions which take place physically, from blood sugar level elevation to nutrient uptake slowdown. When this system is overworked, a person can suffer from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). AFS is a potentially debilitating affliction by which someone can become effectively incapacitated with exhaustion.

Because sensitivity to sound can be so disruptive to an individual experiencing high levels of stress, it’s important to recognize the damage that lack of stress recovery can cause. Long term and prolonged stress can damage relationships and our own personal well-being. When you are a sufferer of adrenal fatigue, it can seem as if you’re constantly on edge. Taking steps to mitigate stressful factors in your life is something that we should all do to help ourselves begin to recover from adrenal fatigue. Understanding how our stress response works is one of the first steps to managing a path towards recovery. Being aware of sensitivity to sound, as it can be a good initial indicator for knowing that your NEM Stress Response has been triggered.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

If you do not have AFS, sounds, sirens, and loud booms should not cause a reaction in your body. But if you have AFS, your body’s reaction to sounds are different; they may cause a fight and flight issues for you. Sound therapy, music or low tones of bass may not be enough to help the adrenals recover.

Sensitivity to sound