Sunday, November 04, 2007

Silence is Golden

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.

(Don't forget to stop over to Kathy's place and read her story!)


Anonymous said...

Misery loves company, Jeff. I have to say I forgot how much buzzing fluorescent lights bothered me. I suppose they'll annoy me more now that you mentioned it. Oh, my head!

I'm starting to think it's our spouses who need the support group -- for having to deal with us. God bless 'em.

Heather said...

It depends on the day if noises irritate me or not.

There's the glove-box squeak as you drive down the road. Enough to incite road rage.

Our hallogen lamp emits a buzz if it's turned on higher than dim.

It's a good thing whining kids doesn't irritate me very often, considering my job description. I guess we can never meet, Jeff!

Craig shares your ceiling fan irritation. Also, he can hear bears farting in the woods. It's so annoying.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

kathy - You're absolutely right. But my wife know I'm worth the hassle.

heather - Welcome to our group. Feel free to let it all out. I'm listening. (sorry, couldn't resist)

Peter said...

Hi! my name is Peter. Here are some of the sounds that make my ears bleed.

Dripping taps - drive me crazy. I can hear them a mile away. Usually when I'm trying to go to sleep.

Cell phone interference - with my computer. You would have thought I'd learnt by now.

Sydney Australia

Leo Pusateri said...

Noise-cancelling headphones, when you cell phone starts ringing.,,

Dogs barking in the middle of the night... (or any small dog that emits more than one bark at a time, anytime).

To put a different bent on things, a few sounds that I love:

Loons in the middle of the night;

Train whistles in the middle of the night.

Mooselet said...

Here's 3 of mine for you:

Kookaburra's at 4:30 in the morning. I'm not impressed with any sound of nature at that unholy hour, never mind a bird that sounds like a pack of screaming monkeys outside my windows.

Drink slurping. That obnoxious sound when someone doesn't have the common decency to drink without sounding like a Labrador makes me want to scream.

Sparky's bedroom door. He refuses to shut it all the way for some reason unknown to mankind, and so the lightest breeze bangs it against the door frame. Makes me nuts.

Avery Gray said...

Oh geez! I totally get this! I can't concentrate when there's any noise around. So, whiny child and blaring TV are my two arch-nemesises. (Nemisi? Nemises?) But I also can't stand the sound of the brakes squeaking when they're wet, or the sound of the dishwasher, or the sound of the alarm clock when my husband gets up in the morning.

Anonymous said...

Here's a few of mine... (eardrum roll, please)

-The sound of anyone chewing croutons or crunchy cereal, with or without a closed mouth.

-The sound of the refrigerator door seal when it opens.

-Bobo, the parrot from hell, who resides in the basement and feels compelled to great the sun with the sound you'd get if you crossed Freddy Krueger's knife-like fingers with Archie Bunker's nasally voice.

and last and surely least...

-The way my kids say "Mommmm!" when they feel a great injustice has been done to them by their siblings.

Great post!

Gale said...

Joe vs the Volcano!!! I love the face Tom makes in that office. I use it frequently when faced with annoying sounds.
I don't mind sounds that much though. Rocky on the other hand can not stand the character Karen's voice from Will and Grace. Gets on his nerves fast. change the channel!!

Anonymous said...

I knew we were sisters from another time: the chewing, oh the chewing, even with the mouth closed, can send me over the top....that is the one noise that drives me CRAZYYYYYY.

yoo hoo said...

This one will leave your heading shaking. I can't stand to listen to someone eating a banana. That little snap of a bite, and the usually open mouthed chewing that goes along with it...makes me leave the room. But for accuracy it was only the way my dad ate bananas that drove me mad, sorry daddy!

Whit said...

I hate the hum of a television set being on. We used to have a TV at my old job that was only used for training videos. They never turned it off. I could walk through a full and busy room and hear that the TV was on and idle. Drove me crazy.

Julie Pippert said...


Oh how I hear you (pun intended). My hearing is acute to compensate for the lack of vision. My hard of hearing (IMO) husband has no clue what I mean about painful sound.

Awesome post and off to read the companion!

Using My Words

yellojkt said...

I was watching SNL last night and the canned laughter began to really annoy me. Live shows shouldn't have to try that hard.

Anonymous said...

I actually have a couple not mentioned above: the very human scream for "Help!" from the very beautiful night...

Also I have tinnitus...I hear a high pitched buzz constantly, it does not go away. I can only ignore it.

All of the above sound like terrific marketing opportunities for those sound baffle earphones from Boze. Wisht I had stock.

Ed said...

Great list Jeff. I know what you mean about a lot of those. I also hate lights at night. That little "I'm here" blue light from my monitor in my bedroom is like a giant laser boring into my cranium. The digital clock? Turned around with a towel over it!

Mom Thumb said...

Oh, you wouldn't like it at my house. We are in the approach path for Vance Air Force Base and F14s actually fly right over my roof. Interestingly, you get used to it. I hardly notice them anymore.

I took a ticking clock out of our bedroom at three a.m. Next day I took the battery out and hung it back up. Only because it was a gift and has photos in it.

Anonymous said...

Mom Thumb -- I'm Kathy of the Companion Post. I live right under a flight path to an airport, as well. Oddly enough, that noise doesn't bother me, unless I'm talking on the phone outdoors when one goes over.

It's the little noises that grate on me. Ticking clocks are not allowed in our house either!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

You all are cracking me up! It seems our little support group is really coming together nicely. I may have to rent more chairs!

Anonymous said...

Two things: the voice of the guy on the radio, who yells the prices on car and truck adds; and the loud incessent bonging, BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,BONG,... when you open the door on Bill's Buick La Sabre. I know the door is open, I just opened it!

jennine: refrigerators go phuww.

Gale said...
This has nothing to do with noise. But the reason I started reading your blog had to do with the motorcycle hand signals. I ran across some hand signals from a harley site and got the giggles. Please do go visit - I just wanted to share.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on the canned laughter. I don't think it's a coincidence that my favorite shows have no laugh track.

My annoying noise is the bathroom fan downstairs. And my watch ticking. It's so loud I have to put it in a different room while I sleep or it will keep me awake.

Signs&Wonders said...

here's a crazy one. At my last job, I had a co-worker who would shred her own paper (we only had one shredder and it was far from our offices) . . . but she did it in such a repetitive, methodical way that it somehow drove me insane. seriously--take some paper and try to shred it rhythmically/methodically and see how you can stand it.

When I told her to please not shred "methodically", she had no idea what I meant.

Anonymous said...

The one "biggie" for me,is the soundtrack background on quiz shows. While the contestant is standing there thinking, the bass fiddle is gioing "Bum--Bum-Bum-da Bum--over and over and over again, and VERY loud. It pounds in my head and drives me nuts. I want to write the T.V. show ask why the "H" they have to do that!!!

Anonymous said...

i, for one, am forever grateful to Aaron Sorkin for breaking the "laugh track barrier" with his first foray into television programming, i.e. Sports Night. i HATE laugh tracks, even more than the sound of a ticking clock. but NOT more than the sound of a florescent bulb going out, because that's just icky. not to mention annoying.

in other words, i can and will gladly co-sign this particular "postal" statement, for YOUR "sound idiosyncrasies" are most assuredly shared by ME. (be sure to put "coasters" under those chairs, the sound of four legs screeching across a wood floor has been known to drive me up a proverbial wall. ewwww.) ; )

Anonymous said...

I appreciate hearing a warning noise when someone nearby depressurizes their beer or used groceries.

Sandy said...

I'd tell you that I nodded my head in agreement as I read this post, but you probably heard it, right?

Caron said...

I suppose this makes me a bad Minnesotan, but, I can't stomach the sound of hotdish. You know, how it slirks, and burps and sounds just disgusting when the ingredients are being stirred together.

Elizabeth said...

Every night I have to wear ear plugs and have the fan going for white noise. The sound of my husband snoring drives me nuts, but even worse is the soft weezing sound the dog makes when she's breathing! And it's like they coordinate, so as soon as one stops the other starts!!

wayabetty said...

I supposed nothing is more annoying than a whining kid. We dubbed our 2nd son "merlot" b/c he whines too much, get it?

I told my Mom I'm pretty much drunk every day b/c of him. She thought that was hilarious. I should really enroll into AA, huh?! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to know there are others out there like me! Here are a few of mine:

*dripping faucets
*my own dog barking, especially when I'm a 1/2 block from my house and he is doing it because I left without him!

*the garage door squeaking every single time it opens and closes. (yet my hubby claims not to hear it!)

*the hum of the external hard drive in our office

*the hum of the xbox that never gets turned off

ahhhh...thanks for letting me vent!!!

:) Lisa

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

workout mommy - Welcome to our club. Watch for your December meeting invite where we'll all be sharing our pain together again.

Anonymous said...

I hate when people chew loudly. When I hear that I must leave the room.

Anonymous said...

I am definitely onboard with the whole chewing, slurping thing but can we talk about ice crunching...aaaahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

or what about when people make that noise when they are trying to clear there nose and throat from mucus and they do it over and over again.

Also, pen clicking...

Thanks, I feel better.

PP said...

I am known at work as "dog ears". I hear and am annoyed by sounds people make in our open office. Here are some of the most annoying:
- Snapping carrots made from coworker who snaps them with his front teeth before he chews them
- Spoons scraping the bottoms of yogurt cups (I am surrounded by these)
- Loud conversations from a reputed office motor mouth
- Popping and snapping of gum
- Obnoxious laughter

OmgCarol said...

Many on here are suffering Misophonia, or soft sound sensitivity syndrome (4S)... google it... "normal sounds are heard at a frequency that causes pain.