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.