Super-hearing: A Curse And A Blessing?

“I have long held the opinion that the amount of noise that anyone can bear undisturbed stands in inverse proportion to his mental capacity and therefore be regarded as a pretty fair measure of it.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

If I had a real superpower, it would probably be my hearing.  There’s a TV show in Canada based on this concept, The Listener.  It would be nice if I could be like The Listener and help people with my heightened hearing.  (I assume that’s what he does.  I’ve never watched the show.)  All my super-hearing does is annoy me.

Sounds that irritate me:

  1. Sirens and car alarms.
  2. Horn-honking.
  3. Cars with loud engines or carburetors or whatever creates that sound.  (Many of the sounds that annoy me are car-related.)
  4. Screaming or raised voices.
  5. Loud conversations between strangers in public.  Loud one-sided conversations on cellphones.
  6. Music played in stores and malls.
  7. Birds that chirp outside my window at 5 a.m.!
  8. The volume of the TV.  I’m constantly adjusting it.  The sound of ads is so awfully, gratingly loud.
  9. Dripping faucets.
  10. I have a stove that makes a constant clicking sound when an element is turned on.  It’s a safety feature.  It drives me nuts.
  11. Outdoor parties that occur outside my window on warm nights.  Even closing the window didn’t mute one woman’s cackling.
  12. Certain people’s voices.  Does anyone remember the story of the epileptic woman who would get seizures whenever she heard the voice of Mary Hart of Entertainment Tonight fame?  I don’t get seizures, but whenever I hear Bob Simon’s voice, a reporter on 60 minutes, I feel bad inside.  I can’t explain it any better than that.

These aren’t just sounds to me.  It’s noise and my reaction to each is the same:

  1. They pull me out of what I’m doing which is usually enjoying my own thoughts in silence or —  in the case of the birds — SLEEPING.
  2. I start ranting about how “the world doesn’t need to hear your boring conversation or your tricked out car” and how hostile the world is.
  3. I start wishing (again) I lived in the middle of nowhere.

Basically I start whining and complaining.

I don’t just hear; I think and feel and hear.  Everything I hear comes with some thought or feeling. And those thoughts and feelings need to be processed.  No, I need time to process those thoughts and feelings and I don’t have the time and energy to process everything I hear.  Or the desire.

It’s not all bad though.  With my awareness of the sounds around me comes the ability to be an attentive listener.  I pay close attention to what people say.  The words they use.  The emotion behind the words, if any at all.  The tone of their voice.  What they don’t say.  And I have thoughts and feelings about all of it.  But, really listening when other people are talking is probably the kindest and most respectful thing you can do.  I end up spending time staring at a wall after listening and processing what people say but it’s worth it.

Is any of this interesting?  I’m not writing anything you probably haven’t experienced.  Even my way of dealing with it all — putting in ear buds and listening to anything that drowns out the noise — isn’t interesting or original.

But sometimes I don’t have my ear buds.  And I’m like this:


There’s only so much crying, whining, and complaining you can do.  Eventually I do what Elaine Aron suggests in her article “Noise!”:

When I am faced with noise I can’t eradicate or block in any way, I fall back on the advice about noise that a meditation teacher gave me: “The ocean cannot escape it’s waves.”
That is, at the deepest level of consciousness, we are one with those damn jack hammers, so love them as much as you should love the self whom you want to provide with quiet. Or, we are not anywhere entirely by chance, and the jack hammers are your waves, a part of your fate. They are your teachers today, hammering home your need for more patience and acceptance.

If I can’t escape the noise, I start to get curious about it.  I listen to it closely.  I count the number of chirps.  I guess when the car alarm will be turned off.  I wonder why anyone would throw a party.

The most annoying thing about being aware and annoyed by noise is being around someone who isn’t annoyed by it. They don’t even hear it.

Oh, what I would do to be so oblivious.



8 thoughts on “Super-hearing: A Curse And A Blessing?

  1. Reading your list of annoying sounds made me realize how much those same sounds affect me too. Numbers 5 and 6 really bug me, especially when I’m already feeling overwhelmed. It just adds to the chaos. Thanks for sharing, I also agree that it makes us really good listeners 🙂


  2. Excellent post! Yes, I am really annoyed by those loud noises too. Loud music anywhere, ppl talking too loudly, listening to loud cell phone conversations, children screaming intermittently in public places ,where you have blissful silence when the screaming suddenly stops; and then without warning, and apparently with parental approval, the ear-drum splitting screaming starts again. (Woe is me). Is this all part and parcel of being a highly sensitive person, I wonder? Also, I hate really bright lights.

    Thanks, Melene, for a great post, and a chance to vent! Love your blog.


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