All the Noise, Noise, Noise: An HSP in the City

I haven’t written on sensitivity in a while and things keep popping up here so I thought I’d do a couple posts on what’s affecting me as a Highly Sensitive Person in the city. I only have a couple right now, but we’ll see how it goes. I’m hoping that you can either relate or maybe it helps you relate to a loved one.

As always, if you have questions or comments, please let me know! I only have my own experience but I’m happy to share if it helps someone else figure out how they tick.


I never REALLY noticed this much until this move to New York. In Vancouver, we did have a few neighbors that moved in just before we left that liked to have gatherings on their deck (that we shared and opened up to my bedroom) and another with a HUGE sound system that butted up against my livingroom. I was pretty lucky in that the apartment was built in 1955 and was a big, thick, slab of concrete. It felt like a bunker and I really didn’t value the silence and privacy enough while I was there.  I did get annoyed by those neighborly sounds, especially if I couldn’t drown them out with tv or music. It’s like, the beat of unwanted music would work its way into my head and I couldn’t NOT hear it. I couldn’t let it go. Trust me, I wanted to, but I just could. not. No matter what I tried, I always heard it.

My husband wouldn’t really understand and would say, “I’ll go deal with it in a bit.” or “If it gets any worse, I’ll go ask them to quiet down.” and it would make me SO FRUSTRATED. Like, why can’t you see how bad it is!? I realize that it’s a difference in sensitivity. He can drown it out by getting focused in his game or tv. I just…can’t. It will bring me to tears, where I’ll then exhaust myself until I sleep. Truthfully.

The city is busier, faster, louder and bigger than Vancouver, so I expected to be bothered by noise, but not to the extent that I’m finding it.  It’s been a bit harrowing at times so far and I’m working on finding ways to cope.

Before I go into what it’s like here too much, if you think I might just be an annoying whiner control freak, I would very much like to encourage you to read some of the links I’ve collected over on my HSP resources page and familiarize yourself with what being Highly Sensitive means. I’m writing all of this down in hopes that someone will relate and know that they are not alone.

I live near two schools and their recesses are spent in a blocked off street behind my apartment building, running around and playing as kids do. I can hear their individual voices and conversations as well as their cheering and joy. It’s still overwhelming. There is a laundromat under construction under my windows – it has been under construction for over a month now. Spoiler: It was a laundromat before, and is…becoming another one.  The air conditioner is LOUD, which makes me turn up the TV to LOUD, which makes us have to yell at one another LOUDLY.  My bedroom window opens up to the alley where the trashcans are, all contained by a large metal door that smashes shut, loudly. There is a huge building construction site, one building over. Jackhammering begins at 8:30am and stops after 6. Weekends too. My fridge is squealing. I suspect it’s the fan but it rattles and squeals and is this constant low-grade noise that makes me want to gouge my ears out. There are so many people outside yelling to one another, hollering across the street, down the alley way. Just YELLING. Having a yelling conversation across the street, up two stories, from a store to outside on the sidewalk. All the YELLING. Then there is all the automobile traffic and their incessant honking. They don’t just honk for any reason, they honk for NO reason, then honk at the honker who then honks back. It’s almost like a game sometimes.

I honestly don’t think that everyone would pick up on all of that. I’m not TRYING to pick it all out, that’s just it. Those sounds are the ones I am noticing, just by sitting here. There just really is no peace and quiet. I think that’s why I’ve been liking my evening runs in the park. Sunset is always quieter. The park is on an inlet which is still most hours. There aren’t boats or ferries. I put my headphones in, BLAST my music and…ahhhh. I have personal space again. Sometimes I feel like I can’t get the music up loud enough in my ears even, to block out the world.

I think that’s really what it is, it erodes my feeling of safety, personal space and peace. I try to be a good neighbor, to turn music down, I’m not working out in the apartment even though I DESPERATELY want to, because it disturbs my downstairs neighbor, I don’t yell on the street, I am conscientious with my car horn and I try not to slam down the stairs when I leave the apartment. I really try to be wary of others’ personal space and not to encroach on that. I think it irks me when people don’t respect mine. I know it’s not always intentional and often times is just how it is, but I just can’t help but attach to it and notice it.

I’m finding it extremely difficult to find peace and stillness. The noise makes me feel so AGITATED sometimes. Often I can’t figure out what is bothering me. Infeel crabby, irritable and restless. I try hard to ask myself what is going on, but sometimes it is tough. Then Ill notice how loud the fridge squeal is, and the conversation out my window and bingo. There’s the issue. It’s like I had been noticing it all, taking it in, hearing it all along but wasn’t cluing in. So often this is what being HSP feels like to me. An agitation, lack of energy or frustration with no known cause. Until I slow down and go over the details of the situation. Noise? Smells? Hunger? Temperature? All the little nuances that might normally go unnoticed are big issues that throw me off.

Learning about what is aggravating to me is helping, a lot. Just understanding that I’m not crazy, whiny or any number of negative things. I’m sensitive.

I plan to get some earplugs and am looking into some speakers for my phone so that I can play some of my own music to drown out the ambient noise. Working out helps give me another focus when I have the energy. Sometimes a long shower, bath or swim (if I can manage it) will help me reset. Help me almost clean off the irritation and refresh my senses. I take naps frequently when I feel overstimulated and oddly enough, sometimes I go OUT in the noise so it no longer becomes ambient but something I am a part of.  I’m working on it, is what I’m saying but man…does it suck sometimes and just totally overwhelm me.

Does this sound like you at all? Do you have issues with noise? What sort of coping mechanisms do you use to help? 

2 thoughts on “All the Noise, Noise, Noise: An HSP in the City

  1. I felt VERY VERY similar when I was in New York. The noise is just…constant. Never ending. And it did wear on me and my nerves and my ability to be in my skin.

    The one thing I might suggest if you can swing the cost is a good pair of noise cancelling headphones, that you can then use when you are getting overwhelmed. That was something I had a lot of people suggest to me when I was in NY & I still wish I had tried it.

    1. THANK YOU Ginger. I’m so glad that I’m not alone in this! People/friends/family just sort of shrug it off, but you’re right. Never. Ending.

      I was actually up at 7am the other day, it was dark-ish and…silent. I was tired but didn’t want to go back to sleep because it was so peaceful, I wanted to enjoy it!

      I WILL be finding a good pair of those headphones I think. Just to give me some ‘space’. Thank you!

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