How Sound Pollution Impacts Sensitive People

My ears are ringing after 19 hrs. in the airport…

I arrived at the airport at 6AM, having checked my flight online, believing everything was right on schedule. Upon arrival, I was told there was a mechanical issue and the plane would be delayed for two hours. Okay, I still have time to make my connection and so settled in.

And promptly became acutely aware that airports in particular are hyper-noisy and over stimulating for a sensitive person. Blaring intercom announcements, repetitive at about 30–60 second intervals x 2 hrs. = at least 180 announcements.

The automated voices are the creepiest…

I then noticed the constant chatter of drop-down televisions (I gave up TV about five years ago and now remember why). On top of flight announcements and TVs, someone decided piped-in music should complete the auditory trifecta. Add passengers speaking into cell phones in a variety of languages/frustrated tones and I found myself completely overstimulated.

So I headed to the only place to be alone at the airport, the bathroom stall. I sat for a while, deep breathing with eyes closed, working to get grounded and centered. Gradually, into my awareness drifted the sounds of toilets flushing and water rushing into sinks. I hear the soft strains of one of my favorite Joni Mitchell songs. Ahh, at least they got something right, thank you Joni, I feel better already!

When I returned to the gate, they announced the flight would be delayed another two hrs. I resigned myself for a long day. Little did I know then how long it would eventually be.

Taking off, I noticed the deep vibration that permeates my body and ears as I sit over the wing (not my usual seating choice). Touching down in Newark — I ran about a mile through the crowds to catch my connection.

Damn, missed it by 10 minutes!

I was told the next available flight was seven hours off, so I began to search for a place to unwind. Starting to feel my physical body knotting up, I settled on an airport restaurant with what looked like a cozy, private booth.

Finally, some quiet.

But as I took my seat, the music ramped up, a strange mix of club and alternative, if such a thing exists? At the volume typical of those genres, I might add. I inquired of my server, is it possible to turn the music down? He returned shortly but said the manager was concerned the music couldn’t be heard by the guests on the exterior. And that’s a problem, why?

Sigh… I had already checked out multiple restaurants with similar environments and decided to at least get some nourishment.

As I dined, I wondered, at what point did we as a society become uncomfortable with silence? What compels us to fill every waking second with some type of noise, talking and talking and talking just to hear ourselves talk? Listening to four different things at once? Cranking up the music beyond comfortable conversation?

Perhaps it’s because in silence, we instinctively know we might have to look within. To face our stuff instead of choosing to being numbed by constant stimulation from outside sources. Hmmm…

As I continued on my travel adventure, it became clear every delay that could possibly show up, would. Mechanical issues followed by weather delays, sitting on the tarmac because another plane was at our gate, we jumped one airport hurdle after another. 19 hours later and through the deep kindness of so many people holding space for my safety and well-being, I finally dropped exhausted into the hotel bed.

In the silence, I became aware of sharp, persistent ringing in my ears, as if I had just attended a loud rock concert. The ringing continuing for several hours, I was literally coming down from a stimulus hangover.

I think back several weeks ago when I attended the 33rd HSP Gathering Retreat and watched Elaine Aron answer the question, ‘Is it possible for a sensitive person to not become overstimulated in a stimulating environment?’

Her simple answer, ‘No.’

Spot on.

It behooves us as sensitive people to become experts on the subject of our own self-care. We can choose environments that are more supportive and/or limit time spent in ones with too much noise, crowds, bright lights or whatever we know to be our individual triggers.

When we do find ourselves in a highly stimulating environment and cannot control our exposure, do the best you can in the moment. Get to a calm, quiet place as soon as possible and schedule substantial alone time afterwards. The next day when I awoke, I opted out of the morning session of a conference to walk in the woods, stand on a mossy rock to re-ground my energy and listen to the soft rustle of wind in the leaves. Gradually, I came back into myself, into my vibrancy.

For sensitive people, harsh sound can feel like noise pollution. On the flip side, a beautifully composed piece of music has the potential to bring a deep, joyous, heart connection.

Would I have it any other way?

Not a chance.

Powerfully Sensitive Coaching
I invite you to close your eyes and stand firmly where you are right now.
Breathe into that part of you that knows you’re already Powerfully Sensitive.
Envision what’s possible if you connect with your personal power every day.

I invite you to join me for a year-long journey to discover your personal power. Through 26 customized, individual coaching sessions, we partner to rewrite your story. In addition, twelve group coaching sessions connect you with other sensitive people traversing a similar path. Followed by the capstone experience, Create Your Own Soul Retreat.

My client Terrie speaks about the sharing and growth that takes place during our group calls:

‘Participating in your online group coaching has helped to dissipate my sense of isolation. The reason I mention this is twofold. One, I’ve been able to interact in a community of other sensitive souls, hearing and seeing real people who are on the same journey as me. And, two, hearing another person’s use of tools (in their toolbox) helps me. Hearing it as part of their story and experience, and not as advice comes in handy, too.’

Apply for a complimentary coaching session




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Bevin Niemann

Bevin Niemann

Mentor for Spiritual Leaders → Join the Empowered Sensitive Leaders community at

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