Turn it down! Most Americans have grown more sensitive to noise since pandemic began

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NEW YORK — Can you hear me now? It may be time to get your ears checked. More than half of Americans say they’ve become more sensitive to noise since the pandemic started.

The survey of 2,003 U.S. polled respondents about their hearing health ahead of World Hearing Day on March 3rd. Results show that more than four in 10 have become more sensitive to loud music (43%) and loud conversations (42%) since the pandemic began in early 2020.

Those distractions can also be painful. More than half (52%) say loud noises give them headaches, with the average respondent experiencing six a week. Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Loop Earplugs, the survey also shows that although 30 percent enjoy listening to music while working, 54 percent reveal they’re often incompatible with the sound preferences of other household members.

That’s likely why 31 percent of respondents would love to turn the volume down when someone in their household is listening to something that is distracting them. 

Most annoying sounds

The poll also sheds some light on the sounds people dread hearing the most from other household members. What ticks people off the most? Loud phone conversations (29%) and loud chewing (29%) top the list. In addition, respondents say that they spend, on average, more than four hours a week wearing headphones without actually listening to music.

“It’s clear that Americans are struggling with the distraction of loud noises in everyday life. Six in 10 respondents said that they wish they could wear earplugs to help take the edge off, but still hear important things happening around them,” says Maarten Bodewes, co-founder of Loop Earplugs. “Using earplugs that are specifically designed to reduce background noise is a great way to stay focused without being cut off from what’s going on around you.”

Thankfully, 76 percent report having a strong sense of hearing, and 77 percent believe they take good care of their ears. Yet nearly half note that they “always” or “often” experience sensations that are similar to symptoms of misophonia, a disorder in which hearing small repetitive sounds can trigger an intense reaction of anger or disgust.

Another one in three respondents have recently experienced ringing in their ears (31%). Twenty-eight percent have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds,  and 30% have become hypersensitive to specific sounds. Six in 10 people agree they would wear earplugs to help with noise sensitivity, but think people will judge them if the earplugs are noticeable.

Just over seven in 10 use earplugs to help them fall asleep at night. Almost half (49%) claim to use them at least once a day.

“The data speaks to the need to empower people to live their life to the fullest by taking control over how they hear life. You can do this by being aware of noises that trigger you or by paying more attention to damaging noise levels and by actively taking steps to reduce noise whenever needed, without the fear of being judged or stigmatized,” adds Dimitri O, co-founder of Loop Earplugs.