Reason why noises like a baby crying and car alarms drive you crazy

Ever stopped to wonder why you find certain noises so toe-curlingly awful?

Perhaps it’s the anxiety-inducing wail of a baby crying or the teeth-on-edge screech of chalk on a chalkboard.

Certain sounds are more than capable of stirring intense feelings of anger, irritation and in some extreme cases, even disgust.

But why?

When a person hears a sound, the amygdala – the part of the brain that regulates emotions – decides the emotional response a person has to it.

Katie Ogden, audiologist and training manager of hearing aid technology company ReSound, has put together a list of the most hated sounds, which give an interesting insight into why these noises trigger such a strong response in certain individuals.

Eating and chewing
The sound of someone eating or chewing can trigger a negative response in many individuals, so much so, that it even has a name – misophonia. But why do people find these sounds so frustrating?

People with misophonia have stronger connectivity between the part of the brain that processes sound and the premotor cortex that controls the mouth and throat muscle movements.

This means that those suffering find hearing chewing or eating irritating due to their sensitivity to it activating their own muscles.

Snoring is another sound misophonia sufferers struggle to tolerate, however, the sound of snoring can also cause irritation to individuals in general, for a number of reasons.

First of all, a person’s hearing apparatus is designed to focus on sounds that are close by, making a person snoring in close proximity really hard to ignore.

The second reason is that snoring is sporadic, making the speed and intensity impossible to predict, meaning you can’t lull yourself into a rhythm of listening to it.

Chalk on a blackboard
The classic! When it comes to the screeching sound of chalk scraping against a blackboard, the shape of a person’s ear canal could play a part in why the noise is so unbearable. Studies have shown that due to the shape of the ear canal, it amplifies certain frequencies to a painful volume, including high-pitched sounds like chalk on a blackboard.

Baby crying
Often people find that the sound of a baby crying captures their attention in a way that very few other sounds do and associate the sound with a feeling of stress. The reason why the sound of a crying baby is impossible to ignore is because it activates the primitive parts of the brain that trigger the fight-or-flight response.

Dogs barking
The sound of a dog barking can cause anger or irritation for a lot of people due to it being a repetitive, sharp and usually loud sound. Much like the sound of a baby crying, barking also evokes the fight-or-flight response, making the sound difficult to ignore.

Car alarms
A car alarm can trigger a response of frustration in an individual due to its loud and repetitive sound. An average car alarm can hit 90 to 110 decibels, which is way above the 85dB threshold for safe hearing. It can cause physical pain to the ears, alongside emotional distress.