The fear of loud noises phobia is known by several different names: Ligyrophobia, acousticophobia, sonophobia or phonophobia. All these different terms have their roots in Greek for “loud noise, sound or alarm”.
No matter how prepared one is: the sudden burst of an alarm can leave one shocked and panic stricken. Ligyrophobia is a fairly common phobia, affecting many individuals, young and old, around the world.
Humans usually set up alarms to wake themselves up. We also often install security alarms and sleep soundly in the knowledge that we will be notified of intruders or burglars thanks to those alarms. However, when the alarm does go off, we tend to get panic-stricken and disoriented. In normal individuals, this reaction usually only lasts for just few seconds and most of us wake up quickly enough to dial the emergency number. In case of phonophobia though, the individual simply cannot take any action owing to the loud noise blaring around him. The clinical term for the fear of loud noises phobia is Ligyrophobia- where Ligyro means ‘sharp’ in Greek.
Let us study the causes, symptoms and treatment for this phobia in detail.
Causes of Phonophobia
To an extent the fear of loud noises is in-built in humans. Right since the dawn of mankind, any new, sharp or loud sound would drive humans to take cover in order to keep themselves safe.
Children are more likely to suffer from phonophobia as they are more sensitive to sound stimuli from as early as infancy. For most children, this fear is transient and passes with time. In some cases though, especially when there has been a traumatic or negative incident associated with the loud noise, the fear can become permanently etched on their mind. This is actually a mechanism used by the mind to defend itself from further trauma- by using the same conditioned response of fear over and over –it tries to protect the individual from further bad news/experience.
Adults with Phonophobia tend to have other underlying reasons behind this anxiety disorder. Typically, they might suffer from adrenal insufficiency, misophonia, or hyperacusis. These are psychological conditions that could have caused extreme sensitivity to sound stimuli-such people tend to fear ongoing noise and just cannot function in noisy environments. Autism is another factor that could lead to the fear of loud noises phobia.
It is important to note that everyone reacts differently to different sounds. Even within a single household, you will have family members showing different reactions to different sounds. Some might suffer from migraine headaches, still others might have experienced Post traumatic stress disorder that can lead to the Ligyrophobia. It is just the way human beings are made differently-just as one person is better at certain sport than the others, in the same manner, the ability or inability to withstand loud sounds and noises differs from person to person.
Symptoms of Ligyrophobia
People suffering from Ligyrophobia or Phonophobia show different symptoms based on the intensity of their fear: Nausea, fainting and sweating are some of the most common symptoms while the desire to flee from the noisy place is another highly reported symptom in sufferers.
Avoidance behavior is also usually seen in such patients: they dread and avoid loud fireworks, noisy marketplaces, and crowded cities or activities like driving on highways etc. Adults with Ligyrophobia might embarrass themselves owing to their condition- they might appear restless or might be unable to function normally in noisy office environments. Naturally, this condition can be very limiting for them in their personal and professional lives.
Older children with the phobia also tend to avoid sports, noisy stadiums or might refuse to participate in games etc. They tend to cover their ears or have a full blown panic attack when facing such situations. They might refuse to socialize or eat in crowded restaurants. Often their behavior is highly embarrassing to their parents.
Treatment of the fear of loud noises phobia
If the fear of loud noises is producing disruptive emotional distress or an extreme physical reaction that tends to interfere with day-to-day activities, then it is best to seek professional help for the condition.
Clinical therapies including cognitive behavior therapy are known to be highly successful in treating and managing Ligyrophobia. CBT works by educating the patient so that he is informed about his phobia in a way that helps him change his perspective. He also learns to challenge his thoughts and through exposure and response prevention, he learns to overcome his phobia for good.
A more direct clinical approach for treating Ligyrophobia is Exposure therapy. It works by offering very small doses of the offending stimuli-in this case noise– until the patient learns to develop tolerance for the larger doses of sound.
These are few proven techniques to overcome the fear of loud noises phobia.
Having severe autism, I understand how you all feel! I don’t do loud noises, concerts, sporting events, family get-togethers, other public events and activities or anything else that involves loud or sudden sounds. I get extreme anxiety and end up lashing out every time. It’s taken over my life! I can’t even do anything as simple as going to a friends house for a party or a movie night.
Hi, I am 28 and have been suffering from this almost my entire life. It all started with a balloon popping just next to my ears when I was around 3 or 4 years old.
It’s really hard to live with this since it’s triggering panicky flight behavior that starts in an unconscious way and that is really hard to repress. It’s going so far that I am always looking up whether there are loud firework festivities planned when I travel abroad. Any loud noise makes me startle, and the anticipation of a balloon popping or a cracker exploding is absolutely unbearable. It has triggered a lot of bullying from other people in the past, and it’s hard getting others to understand and respect what is basically unexplainable but very tangible.
I get relief from the many similar reactions I see here, and I’ll try out the idea of drowning the loud noises of fireworks in on-ear loud music.
Stay strong all.
I have the same fear of sudden loud noises. I have had it since I was little. Balloon popping, firecrackers, gunshots, and any sudden loud sounds that terrify me. Although I somewhat outgrew the fear, I still find these noises unbearable.
I used to have this phobia but I overcame it. Another phobia got in the way after that.
I am 28 years old and very much afraid of crackers bursting. I embarrass myself in front of family and friends all the time due to this. I used to run away from a place where children played with crackers. I put my fingers in the ears to brace the loud noise in cases where I already know there will be an explosion. I don’t know what to do. I am a big guy and I used to think that it would go away with time, but it never did.
I am an 18 year old individual. I have the same exact phobia. I don’t fear any other loud noises, just loud firecrackers and bursting balloons. Nothing works, I tried exposure therapy. Still no results. I have no idea what to do.
I am also 18, and I cannot stand the sound of a firework popping or a balloon. I get so embarrassed during the 4th of July or New Year because I have to stay in a room on my own with loud music, and if I don’t have my earphones, I bawl my eyes out in anxiety. I have no clue what to do anymore.
I’m 28 and also terrified of balloons popping, thunder and lightning and fireworks. I detest bonfire night and dread it every year. It’s just such a stressful night. Also when we had that thunder and lightning earlier on in the year where the sky was red and some parts were noisy and some were silent it was so scary. I just couldn’t sleep. I had to sit in the bathroom with my lights on and my earphones in on full volume. I even had to take an anxiety tablet as there was no calming me. I even paced up and down my mothers room. It’s just a bit embarrassing at times as I feel like I should be over it by now because I’m an adult, but I just can’t see me ever being able to cope with these phobias. It’s a part of me so to speak.
William Green says
I hate firecrackers and balloons also for my entire life. Explosions, etc. Can I email you about this?
I am also an 18 year old. I am scared of popping balloons crackers. I don’t know if it is common or not. I feel a bit comfortable reading so many comments of people like me. But the problem is, every family members think that I am a little boy who is afraid of crackers. I don’t know why no one accepts that it is also a thing someone can be scared of. I am sometimes embarrassed during festivals. My cousins enjoy those firecrackers, and I stand behind them with my fingers tightly placed on my ears.
Kaye Francisco says
I am 20 years old and extremely afraid of firecrackers, balloon popping, and bus horns. I don’t know what to do anymore. The full-blown panic attack every time I face loud noises is major torture. I want to be healed.
I have a fear of the noise of amber alerts. It sounds weird but it is true. Every time i hear it i panic and close my ears for some reason.
I have a similar fear.. it’s amber alerts, tornado sirens, and high pitched ringing (similar to when you throw a grenade and your ears ring). I also have a strong fear of quick approaching footsteps. I don’t cover my ears with any of these fears, but I go into full panic mode.
Last night the smoke alarm went off (it was just because of humidity). That was the first time I had heard it. I’m 18, but we got a new one like 5 years ago. I completely shut down, my muscles locked up and I couldn’t move, and I didn’t know it at the time, but my parents told me afterwards that I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I didn’t calm down after that and I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. I’ve had similar reactions to alarms and loud noises before, but never that extreme because I guess there has never been an alarm that close to me before (the smoke alarm is right by my bedroom).
This is me all the time. It didn’t use to bother me, only started about 2 years ago. It sends me into massive panic attacks.
I fear the sound of my upstairs neighbor dragging, stomping and dropping stuff.
Cheryl Alexander says
Wt, I know just how you feel! Why, oh why do people on upper floors have to stomp through their rooms?
17 here. School fire alarms leave me petrified in my seat. My hands just sort of fly up to cover my ears and then my whole body locks up. Can’t breathe, can’t move. Nothing. Only thing that changes is that my heart goes wild and tears start to come out. I worry that if there’s ever a real fire, this reaction will cost me my life. Only ever had one teacher who had noise cancelling head phones for situations like that.
I get yelled at sometimes. Mostly for dumb reasons. It’s messed me up pretty bad. Can’t stand it when anyone so much as raises their voice. I’m totally fine with movies and videos, though.
Problem here is that I’m also super terrified of silence. Almost worse than my fear of loud noises. So I gotta have this perfect balance all the time. If it’s too loud I get overwhelmed and freeze up, and if it’s too quiet I get paranoid and get a high pitched ringing in my head. I got one buddy I play videogames with who gets mad easy and he’s apparently getting tired of me. I’m starting to get scared of him and have been avoiding him.
I am petrified of thunder, fireworks, tv’s, phone’s, music etc.. I do not have one idea why I am like this I can’t even work.
Same problem I am facing. Please if you have found any solution then please reply to me. I am from India.
Me too.. reply to me.
I have a fear of alarms. Each time I hear an alarm i don’t feel good and i’m insecure.
Same here I get scared when I hear explosions (mostly when I’m not expecting it) and I’m even scared of balloons. Funny enough I wear earplugs when I attend a party with balloons though I’m not scared of loud noises like jet engines, jackhammers, loud music, etc. But for some reason I’m scared of air horns, like in ships and cargo trains.
Same over here. I’m really into aviation and jet engines never really bothered me (unless I’m very close), but things like fireworks, balloons, etc. I’ve never been able to stand them. I feel kinda weird because of that and people always ask how I can be fine with relatively loud music but not balloons.
I react to sounds such as that of movies with loud sounds from automatic weapons and the sound of blades or sword fights – to such a degree that I cannot be in the same room. It is debilitating, brings me out in hot cold sweats and makes my heart race and feels like I am having a panic attack – not sure how to manage this.
I have a fear for specific noises, like someone slurping, burping, chewing, or even kisses. I avoid kisses as much as I can, and eating in front of loud noisy ppl. I HATE loud noises of people eating or even breathing. I want to cry and scream at them. But I don’t have any trouble with fireworks, do I have this phobia or something else?
Thank you all for your comments. My entire life since I can remember I have been petrified of loud noises. Fireworks, balloons, guns, etc.. I have always been bullied for it. it didn’t really bother me much because it is just what I have always known.
Recently, I was abused by my boyfriend. like life altering abuse and felt after he got out of jail he was coming back for me. Because of my fear, I have obviously never owned a gun, but felt it necessary to buy one. So I did, and took a training class. but now I am still so scared because when you are at the firing range you have on very well protective and almost sound proof headphone. I think if he comes back for me I will be too scared to pull the trigger because of the noise.
Has anyone done any type of hypnotherapy or anything that really worked for this sort of thing?
Thanks, and alone.
I am from India and I have the same problem of fear of the loud noises from the fire crackers. The festival of Diwali is approaching and I need its solution. Please help.
Ankit Raja says
I am in the same boat. I try to overcome this by popping in earphones and listening to EDM/dubstep/techno at a very high volume. It’s not a perfect solution, but it certainly reduces the gap in amplitude, when a loud cracker (set off by someone) goes off. My problem is not with a continuous stream of loud noise, rather with the one-off explosions that go off, and you anxiously anticipate the next one. Feels like you’re gonna have a heart attack.
Cee Jay says
Hey! I am from the Philippines and tomorrow is gonna be our New Year celebration. Most people, especially my neighbors are preparing different kinds of fire crackers. Just the thought of what might happen tomorrow scares me a lot. This happens to me every New Year. I want to overcome this phobia but I can’t. I’ve tried so many times already but I failed. Can you guys give me some suggestions or advise to what I should do tomorrow so that I will not have an anxiety attack. I am really scared right now. I don’t want to end up in a mental hospital just because of this damn phobia of loud sounds!
Hi, I’m from the Philippines too. Same concern, November and December are the worst. I don’t know what to do anymore.
After I had my second child, I developed a disorder where I couldn’t stand to hear a baby crying.
I become nervous when I get too close to a fully air filled balloon, I can’t get near people playing with fireworks, it would make me dizzy. I don’t like the sound of the electric mosquito trap which would make a tick sound when a bug hits its electrified bars. I develop anxiety while watching horror movies and some movies using pistols ( not shotguns, snipeguns or automatic guns ). I can tolerate other noisy sound even the loudest alarm as long as it doesn’t sound like a popping b’loon, fireworks (any kind), or a pistol.
I think I have a mix between one of these phobias and globophobia, an alarm or something like that is not bad to me. 3 weeks back I went to a party at school and it was one of the best days from 2017. But the sound of anything that pops or crackling sound is the hell for me. Balloons, fireworks, anything. Even smaller things than a balloon or a very small balloon. I’ve been in therapy several times and none of them really helped. My life is getting difficult because of it. I don’t dare to go outside. There was a time I felt lonely. I had almost no friends and because I was afraid of going outside I didn’t make new friends or I didn’t stay in touch with my friends. Now I do have friends but I don’t know how long it’ll last because every time they do something together I don’t come because I don’t want to go outside.
Does anyone got any tips?
Cee Jay says
I have the same experience as you. It sucks.
I’m so sick of the phobias….I am going to Pigeon Forge and trying to find out if Dixie Stampede, etc. have loud noises (Fireworks, guns, pyrotechnics) I miss out on so much because I can’t control my sudden sound fears. I am constantly looking at the weather channel in the spring/summer because I have to figure out if there is going to be a storm.
Hi. Im having this kind of phobia, hearing people shouting at each other, like somewhat fighting? I hate to hear that. I go crazy and my heart beats fast and I can’t stop feeling traumatized.
once i swallowed 70-80 sleeping pills. i survived but the experience which i got during that period was sound of my heart it was like my ecg is going on, my tongue dried and started hiccups. it was like my life was near to end. now whenever i hear sounds resembling to that time period i become panic and it feels like im going to die. it may be from mobiles, tv, anything. anything which sounds like ecg. help me.
I always get scared on loud motors winding up, like the high noise produced by drills on low level and similar. I don’t know what to do to get it away. Even with ears covered I can’t eventhough its not loud and I would like to build something but I just can’t use the tools to do so.
Use an MP3 player to listen to songs you like very loud. It’ll drown out the other sounds.
Lindy Fe says
I am feeling fear when I hear motors continue acceleration, loud fireworks, continuous sirens not short term. I was exposed to a loud banging situation in which metal barns close to me were straightening trucks. I had to go to court to stop the situation because i had to leave my house. That’s over now but the fear is always and when I get upset my husband makes it all worse.
I went to the shrink and he prescribed me clonazepam (clonopin), I use it only when I panic. It helps but Complex B vitamin helps too. I also use earphones and hear music when there’s too much noise. In Puerto Rico where I live people make a lot of noise and use sirens for every celebration, it’s hard on me to follow up on laws on unnecessary noises.
ronalyn elemos says
Good day. My son always cries when he hears loud sounds, especially the sound of motorboats. We are near the seam that’s why there’s a lot of boats here. He don’t like the sound of a drill and the sound of the alarm either. He is 1 year old. When he hear loud sounds, he cries and don’t know what to do. He keep on walking and cry. I don’t know what to do until the sound stops.
Hello, I am scared.. Tomorrow it’s a festival in our nearby temple and my in laws are forcing me to come and attend.. I feel suffocated and my heartbeat keeps raising when I go to crowded and loud noise areas.. no one is understanding me.. my husband is abroad.. no one is taking it seriously.. don’t know what to do..
I can’t believe I finally know what I’m suffering from is called.
My son is ten and has never had balloons at his parties. I hide every 4th of July, I hate concerts, plane shows everything!
I can’t even watch balloons pop on TV!
People do not take my phobia seriously, so I just keep it to myself and stay away from loud events.
I know what you mean! I dread the 4th of July every year since I was a child. I wish I could just see them and not have to hear them. So I stay home and watch Macy’s fireworks on TV. I also can’t stand the sound of balloons inflating from a helium tank. If I walk into a restaurant and see someone blowing up balloons for the children, I will turn around and leave. I don’t like the sound of them inflating and I especially detest when they pop. When my sons were smaller and I had to take them to birthday parties, I was always anxious when we arrived. I would quickly scan the room to see how many balloons they had around. It’s very difficult to live with this problem and it’s hard to make people understand how I feel. They just want me to get over it!
Don D Anderson says
I feel you 100%, and the stress and frustration that come with people not taking you seriously just makes it way worse.
Hi Tina, my name is Joanne. All of my life I have been terrified of sudden loud noises i.e. fireworks, balloons popping, backfires etc. I never have gotten help for it so its still a problem! My husband and son think its ridiculous, but for me its serious! I’m 60 years old so I guess they think I should have grown out of it.
Anyway I just wanted you to know that someone out there understands. Also I am not looking forward to July 4th.
I have a HUGE fear of amber alerts and other alerts such as it gives me panic attack I shake and cry and I go as far as having my mom come in the middle of the night to help me I usually hear the noise cause I love to listen to Christmas songs to get me to bed but how can I do that? I’ve told my self there’s a person in my area to kidnap (usually that’s what amber alerts are for) and it doesn’t help my neighbors are tweakers.. Please help me I can’t live like this….
I completely empathise with you all. I see people every day whose lives are quite literally being ruled by their phobias, their kids can’t have balloons at their Birthday party, they can’t go to certain places.. the effort and energy this saps from them is underestimated by most who know them. I use a number of techniques in my Hypnotherapy practice to help them move on and I hugely respect their courage.
I am also in a panic condition.. help me please
Tracy Martinez says
My 3 year old is terrified of the auto flushing toliets, she covers her ears and cries and sometimes it is so terrifying that she will not go potty. She won’t even uncover her ears so I can wash her hands and it’s a struggle to get her hands washed and I get dirty looks from people cuz it looks and sounds as if my daugeter is getting abused… I don’t know what to do ? or who to see?
S Preetam says
I am from India and I have a fear of specific loud sounds. Every year I am petrified to go to a marriage because they come with such horrifying crackers that sound like bombs. And every year I spend my days in the corner of my room closing my ear tightly during the days before and after Diwali(Festival of lights). Other days I am completely normal. But every time I hear loud explosions, I hope I could run away to a quiet place or pray to God to take my suffering away. It would feel as if each day Im dying and some day this will end.
Hi , every word you said applies to me as well. Diwali is the toughest time for me. I panick and my heart starts racing everytime a firework goes off. The family doesn’t understand and they want you to go out and celebrate. But how can I, when it’s terrifying even being in the house. Its worse when you are an adult.
I’m also having this fear of sounds of fireworks and balloons burst n air horns. People not understanding my fear. I hate functions for fear of crackers. I’m helpless. Please suggest remedies to overcome my fear. I’m from South india
Wow, I have exactly the same! Fire drills, a lot of people talking, loud music all aren’t a problem but things that pop or explode make me anxious enough to just run as far as possible, if it’s a dead end I’d just jump down and run further. Divali isn’t such a big event in the Netherlands, so I’ve luck but at New Years Eve I sit the whole day with music and hope it’ll end soon.
What helped me a lot this year when I had to get out of house was earplugs and a headphone with ‘earrape’ music. I heard nothing!! It’s only an option if you don’t like the sound of popping things but can handle loud music.
The best place you can find for this solution would be staying abroad, not India, or try curing it somehow.
I have had a dread of loud noises (fire drills, balloons, fireworks) since I was very young. I hoped I would out grow it by my adult years but I still face the same crippling anxiety before or during alarming, sudden sounds. Although its very irrational, I’ve figured out its directly correlated with PTSD. Now that I know its classified as an actually phobia and other people share my fear, I feel alot better.
Hi I have the fear of sudden loud sounds like crackers, balloons, short circuit sound, etc. Can you please help me.
Today is new years and my friend set off a firework by my feet… he didn’t know i’d be left shaking for the rest of the night.
Hi I have the fear of sudden loud sounds like crackers, balloons, short circuit sound, etc. Can you please help me.
I have developed the same fear, over the years. I am finding that a lot of it has to do with PTSD. I had a seriously abusive relationship, with a lot of yelling and door slamming, not to mention a Father who demanded quiet because of his work schedule. You might search inside and see if there is an underlying cause for the fear.
I am suffering from many phobias, like a sudden sound, ghosts, dead bodies, huge buildings and so on. While watching movies, I find that these things do not effect me at that time, but whenever I am alone I can’t keep my mind from the imagination that keeps hovering around my mind all the time. Could you please suggest how I can get rid of all these fears. I would be so thankful to have a quick reply from you.
I am frightened if a car backfires even on TV this is something that goes back to my childhood when I was subjected to a car backfiring it has stayed with me all my life I am now 78 and its now controlling my life I have had CBT and also tried a Hypnotist, that didn’t help either.