When Kathy made mention in a recent post of her supersonic ability to hear irritating sounds that are normally only detectable by dogs or Jaime Sommers, I knew immediately that I wanted to team up with her and co-write a post that shared our neurosis.
Like Kathy, I too am easily bothered by an odd variety of sounds that would typically go unnoticed by normal people. "Normal" of course being those of you who don't think the sound of the blinker in your car is stressful.
I figured misery loves company so why not share the pain - which is exactly what we did. So as a bonus, click here to see Kathy's hysterical companion story at her place. It goes quite nicely with my post here below.
So that being said, here is my short list of sounds I could personally do without:
Computer fans - Most people don't even realize they're humming, but to me they sound like F14s taking off from an aircraft carrier.
Florescent lights - Anyone who remembers the Tom Hanks movie Joe VS the Volcano will know what I'm talking about here. Early on in the movie he was working in an office where his overhead lights were buzzing and flickering and generally making him sick. Now, whenever one of the bulbs in my office starts to buzz I immediately have to run out to the storeroom and get a new one.
Whining kids - I don't know, does this one really need to be explained? Let's just say I have about a .2-second tolerance level.
The shower upstairs - I know the sound of our upstairs shower shouldn't bother me, but ever since my teenagers have begun taking 40 minute showers (at a rate I've estimated to be approximately $100/hr) I am now tuned in the very minute I hear the squeak of the faucet. And for every minute I hear water running beyond 10 minutes, my stress level increases proportionately.
Analog clocks - I've had to remove all clocks from my house that make an actual "tick tock" sound, because to a musician this is the exact same thing as having a 60 bpm metronome running all day long - which is just too much.
Ceiling fans - Even though it may be 100 degrees in our bedroom in the summer, I only turn on the overhead ceiling fan when it's absolutely necessary, because like the clock, our fan makes a "tick" sound with every rotation that I can't seem to fix. And trust me - I've tried.
Our neighbor - The guy who lives across the street from me works alternate hours than the rest of humanity, so several times a week I'll wake up at 2:00 in the morning to the sound of skill saws or hammering. Yeah I know - WTF?!!!
Sitcom laugh tracks - Like most people I love the sound of laughter. It's happy and energizing and by nature should lift your spirits. But natural laugher is a very different thing than the kind of canned laughter you'll find in TV sitcoms. For whatever reason this gets on my nerves. And not only am I acutely aware of it, but I can also identify the 4 basic loops they use:
- the low mumble/snicker (not quite funny enough for a full-blown laugh)
- the short burst (unexpected punchline)
- the long sustained rumble (supports an extended gag of up to several seconds)
- the loud hysterical outburst (featuring one woman with a high, nasally cackle)
High frequency audio feedback - I'm sure this is very common among musicians and sound engineers, but I can detect the presence of an 8k or higher feedback when most people aren't even aware it exists. And like many of Kathy's audio superpowers, this one has become a curse.
The good news is, Kathy and I have started a support group for people like us who are unnaturally bothered by sounds, and you are welcome to join as well. In fact, all you have to do to enroll is leave a comment with one or more noises that drive you nuts and you're automatically a member.
Meetings will be held on Wednesday evenings in a soundproof booth.