It seems to me that our society is getting increasingly louder. It probably depends on where you live, but in any city or residential area I believe this to be the case.
For me, as an HSP, noise is probably my biggest “trigger”. I’m not sure what it is about noise that makes me particularly uneasy, but I guess it’s more invasive than a lot of other sensory stimuli. For instance I’ll usually have to move a lot further away to not hear a noise than I’ll have to do to not smell something. It carries farther. And I can’t just “not hear it”, like I could look away if someone was wearing particularly loud colours/patterns.
Noise also carries with it a certain sense of foreboding. There’s a noise because something is happening. Therefore for me the worst kind of noise is the one I do not know the cause of. If I know what it is, it’s easier to tell myself “oh, it’s just a lawn mower, it’s OK, it’ll be over soon”. There are some notable exceptions of course, like when there’s a police helicopter flying over the neighbourhood. I know what it is, but it doesn’t make me any less uneasy – rather the contrary, as my lively imagination will start to concoct a story where the police are chasing a deranged psychopathic killer, escaped from a mental hospital through our neighbourhood. Naturally he will choose our fence to climb over and come crashing through the glass door to hold us hostage. But, enough about that. 😉
I’m afraid that most people don’t care about noise pollution. It doesn’t seem to bother 80% or so of the population. The kind of things I’m talking about here are:
- People listening to music extremely loudly on public transport (with headphones)
- People listening to music/playing off videos or playing one of those insidious mobile games on public transport without headphones (since when did this become acceptable??)
- People playing loud music in their gardens and what have you for the whole neighbourhood to hear (and I don’t include the occasional birthday party etc in this category). I actually had this conversation with one of my neighbours down the street some time last year, when he’d parked his car right across the street from us and decided to work on it while playing really loud music: Me: Hey, listen, I can hear your music really well inside our house… Him: Oh, nice! Me: No, not nice.. I have to work, and I’d prefer to choose myself when I want to listen to music and what kind. Him: Oh, so what kind of music do you like?… As if the problem was simply his choice of music.
- People answering their phones and/or talking loudly in the cinema
- Open plan offices and the people who choose to shout loudly across them rather than physically walk over to the person they’re trying to reach and talk at a normal volume (what I like to refer to as using your indoor voice)
- Randomly shooting up fireworks (this happens a lot in the Netherlands leading up to New Year’s, but this year also happened quite far out into January, and just last night it happened again)
I was also upset the other day when I was on my way to work in the train and feeling particularly frazzled, and a group of screaming school children came pouring in; it literally felt as if I was being assaulted by the noise. But I realise that kids must be allowed to go on school trips, that I don’t own the train, and that keeping 20-odd kids quiet is nearly impossible (especially when they’re probably excited to be going on a trip).
So the kind of things I’m mainly talking about here are the instances where I feel like others are being rude and inconsiderate. And it’s not just my imagination; it has gotten worse. Of course some of this is made possible by that good old buddy of ours – technology. When I was young, portable music players were a lot less common and smartphones and Bluetooth speakers were non-existent. But, even back then nobody talked in the cinema.
The question is: are people becoming ruder, or are they so used to the constant noise and stimulation of modern society that they genuinely don’t realise they’re doing something that could upset others?
I think it’s probably a little of both. Which makes it harder to actually go up to a stranger and ask them if they could maybe wear their headphones. If they’re just being rude they’re likely to be even ruder to you, but if they’re unaware, they may genuinely feel sorry that they bothered you and indeed put on those headphones. My problem is that I’m incredibly confrontation shy and it’ll take a whole lot for me to go over to someone and risk option 1 (rudeness), so in 99% of the cases I’ll shake my head, put on my noise-cancelling headphones (which would by the way be better named “noise-reducing”) and hope that it’ll be over soon. It took me years of being annoyed with aforementioned neighbour before I actually said something to him, and I was shaking for at least an hour afterwards. I still get uncomfortable thinking about it.
I discussed my noisy neighbour with another neighbour – he’s a no nonsense kind of guy, straight forward, working man, and he said “Oh, it doesn’t bother me, I hadn’t noticed. But if it DID bother me I’d go over there and give him what for!”.
So the situation is that the kind of people who’d be likely to confront noise polluters are the kind of people who aren’t bothered by said noise in the first place and therefore do nothing. The kind of people who are bothered by the noise are likely to be too timid to confront noise polluters and therefore do nothing.
Thus, nothing gets done, and the world gets ever louder. We HSPs and quiet folk will slowly dwindle into oblivion. Survival of the loudest.