Noise Intolerance and MS: Readers' Stories Part 2

If noise causes you stress and discomfort, you are not alone.

Continued from Noise Intolerance and MS: Readers' Stories Part 1

  • I have only been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) for about 6 months but I notice this. I definitely can’t have music playing while I’m trying to concentrate on something else. If I’m driving on the freeway, I prefer that other people not talk, so I rarely drive with someone else in the car.
  • It is not so much the volume as it is the “mood” of the piece, and which mood is appropriate changes from moment to moment. But, I rarely listen to music on the radio or sound system, a real loss for someone who used to be a musician. It is also a loss for my husband, who misses having music on in the house and in the car. But whatever is the irritating music of the moment increases my muscle and nerve tension, and I often don’t realize just how much until the music is turned off and a sigh of relief goes throughout my body.
  • I’ve had pretty bad MS going on 12+ years, and I can’t say I have a problem with the volume of things. Obviously I don’t like when it’s too loud at the movies or a music concert, but I find many forms of music more soothing than anything. With my cognitive impairment, I do find it hard to follow the conversation when everyone is talking at the same time, which I didn’t used to have problems with. Oh, and to be silly, can’t they make the MRIs just a little quieter, please?
  • Wow…this is another one of those revelations that astound me…I thought I was the only one! I have been diagnosed for 5+ years and noticed it very quickly. If the TV shows go to commercial (and it’s super loud as we all know compared to the show you’re watching) I am scrambling to find the mute button on the remote… And I used to be able to listen to music and work, and now I have to turn things off to concentrate. When multiple sounds are happening in a room I find it hard to focus on one of them, like in a loud restaurant and someone trying to talk to me. Some may be just an intolerance to loud sounds, but I know for certain that I never reacted so prominently to sounds like I do now…
  • Some of what you are describing is what I call sensory overload. If I am at a loud function with many people talking, kids running around, etc. I will suddenly get overwhelmed with a need for quiet and many times, fatigue.
  • I have this exact problem but never associated it with MS until I read this. My problems go a little further, a constant low sound like the bathroom fan makes me feel angry. That is the only way I can think of to describe it. My entire body tenses up and it makes my head hurt. I’ve told my doctors about this and they just kind of look at me weird. This has been a hard symptom to deal with since I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years at concerts like Metallica, Ozzy etc. Now lots of noise is very distracting and sometimes even makes me feel faint. It’s oddly comforting to know other people have this problem, I was starting to think I was losing it.
  • This makes me feel as if I am not alone. I have felt this way and it has become a part of who I am so much that I almost forgot that it isn’t normal. But when I have tried to describe it to my husband, who is willing to listen, I tell him it makes my “brain hurt” and that I simply cannot process noise like he does.
  • At first it was very humbling, but now that I realize that this is part of one of the many MS symptoms I have learned how to “manage” it the best I can and try to function at the level that I need to without it “hurting." I mean, it really does get to the point where it does hurt – making my head hurt when I am feeling my MS fatigue at it’s worst.
  • I have a bit of overload when it comes to general noise. I find large crowds overwhelming, and I can get irrationally irritated about it. Sometimes I have the urge (if I’m in the grocery store) to shove other people out of the way with my cart! Sometimes if I’m fatigued, or just on my bad days, I have a real sensitivity to any sort of noise – the clack of Scrabble tiles on the tray, or setting drinks down. It makes me flinch. The CLANG! of the trash can is like a blow to the head. I think they call that hyperacusis – noise sensitivity.
  • I used to take a cotton ball and cut it in half, then stick a half in each ear. It muffles a little bit of noise, but you can still hear people’s conversations. Recently I’ve noticed some high-end hearing loss, and I seem to be hearing less out of my left ear – which makes it less easy to hear what’s going on with a cotton ball in my ear. So I’ve stopped doing the cotton ball thing for a minute, until my hearing resolves.
  • I am okay with the volume but if it gets too hectic and I am trying to think then I get very frustrated because the ideas cannot even begin to form in my brain. Example: At an amusement park on a busy night, trying to coordinate with the family what to do next while trying to figure out the best way to get around the park because they all are looking at you for direction. I wish they would make up my mind for me.
  • I was diagnosed with MS just 8 months ago. Noise issues were my very first issue and continue to this day, seeming to get worse. I can’t deal with watching TV, I can’t drive with the radio on, I can hardly tolerate the voice of my teenage daughter. I HATE making phones calls for my appointments or answering the phone. I’ve isolated myself from family and friends on many levels because of this issue.
  • I was diagnosed in January 2010 with MS, but my doctor thinks I’ve had it at least 10 years, and I have been bothered by sounds for at least the same number of years. I often use foam earplugs to soften or drown out noises that bother me. I always sleep with them to keep sounds that jar me awake from coming through. My nervous system is definitely sensitive and I get overloaded easily.
  • Loud sounds are a horrible problem to deal with, especially when it is the family talking and laughing and the grandkids yelling! The television is the worst – commercials are so loud. It almost hurts. My husband who has hearing problems plays the shows on the loud side – and then does not turn it down for the commercials. So many people do not understand how much discomfort it causes. Send me to a desert island!
  • Oh, yeah! I can relate! The worse place is Wal-Mart. They have now put little monitors on the ends of the isles that play nonstop commercials for Wal-Mart and the item on that particular shelf. Then they have more hanging from the ceiling and still more at the registers. All that, in combination with all of the noise of kids, people talking, the register beeping as it scans, etc. is enough to send me out the door. When I get away from the noise it takes me a little while to get over it.
  • Thank you for letting me know that I am not “oversensitive” or any of the other terms I get called when loud noises make me angry. I have had MS for 30 years and caused a few scenes by trying to get neighbors to shut up. I couldn’t understand why it didn’t bother others. Funny I can stand a lovely dog bark for ages (not yappy little ones), but loud people drive me nuts. How about a group of cackling women – eek. I am so much happier in a country home surrounded by quiet or soothing sounds of nature. Sometimes I have to resort to earplugs. Another thing that people just can’t understand and never will unless they have MS.
  • I’ve always listened to music with my whole body. Every cell in my body registers the sounds, never localized to my ears. So I still enjoy the music without a glitch. What has changed is my ability to process a lot of activity. For instance, a walk through Times Square will create yucky headaches and “vertigo.” Fluorescent lights used to bother me, but now my nervous system has almost zero tolerance, so going to the supermarket, any place that is expansive, like Home Depot or the mall always leaves me needing to sit down before I faint. Having been hypervigilant before now it has magnified to stupefying levels of intolerance. Like many of you who’ve posted here, a quiet corner is much preferred over the chaos of parties.

Bottom Line: Whether all neurologists recognize noise intolerance as a symptom of MS, it is certainly something that affects many of us in many ways - making our cognitive dysfunction worse and even causing other MS symptoms to feel more severe. Rest assured that you are not alone if you are very sensitive to noise. Hopefully, those around you will be understanding of this difficult manifestation of MS.

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