Do Noise and Crowds Affect You More with MS?

Do Noise and Crowds Affect You More with MS?

Faith of the Mustard Seed

Venturing into the world can be overwhelming with multiple sclerosis (MS). Crowds and noise can overload my compromised nervous system, and even my home sanctuary can induce stress when kids, animals, and electronics are present.

While others simply hear kids playing or dogs barking, sound becomes shockingly amplified to many with MS. It becomes a rumbling thunder of chaos that soon manifests into a sensation of electricity darting up and down the spine, ringing ears, stress, and tightened muscles.

My dog Chloe is an example of chaos. She likes to welcome (or threaten) each new person that enters our home and acknowledge neighbors or any other outside activity. She even has her own special barking spot in the center of my house’s entryway. Her bark is the highest pitch I’ve ever heard, combined with the deepest pulsating undertones. When she barks, the acoustics are deafening. It is almost like I have an MS flare every time Chloe is on alert.

Why does noise impact those of us with MS so much? With MS, we really are on our last “nerve.” Our nerve coverings (called the myelin sheath) are damaged and wearing thin throughout our bodies. So, loud noises and chaos can actually “get on our nerves,” making us irritable, jumpy, and stressed.

In extreme cases, noise sensitivity can develop into a condition called hyperacusis, which is thought to be caused by lesions in the audio pathway. The condition involves such extreme sensitivity that it can create echoes and sharp pain in the ear canal and face.

Connect with other patients and caregivers, find support and share tips for living well with MS in our MS News Today online forums.

What can we do to ease our noise sensitivity? In my experience, it’s best to simply remove myself from a tumultuous situation that is making me irritable and anxious. For example, If I am in a room with a lot of rambunctious kids, I look for a quieter place until I calm down or the situation eases.

Leaving, even for a little while, can save my nerves and help me to regroup. Relocating isn’t always an option, though. There may be an important event that can’t be missed. Sometimes, just closing my eyes and blocking out my surroundings can help. Ear plugs are also a good thing to carry. They are small, inconspicuous, and may come in handy.

Also, keeping myself at a comfortable temperature is important. Hot and cold temperatures can adversely affect MS, so combining overheating with loud noise and crowds can make any situation unbearable.

It is always good to plan ahead if you expect to be in a situation that might be uncomfortable. Be creative when thinking of new ways to beat noise sensitivity.

Please share with us in the MS forums what works for you!


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
Debi is a retired admissions and marketing director residing in Oregon. She is a mother of three grown children and has three grandchildren. She was diagnosed with PPMS in 2010. With her column, “Faith of the Mustard Seed,” she hopes to help and inspire others who are also dealing with MS.
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  1. Martin Matko says:

    Chronic Cerebrospinal Venous Insufficiency CCSVI/Neurovascular Disease
    CCSVI is a Treatable Congenital Scientifically Confirmed Recognized Medical Condition Established and Confirmed causative factor in so called Multiple Sclerosis AND plays a part/role 43 other so called Neurological afflictions according to studies!
    Request of your Government Representative/s that availability for Canadians with NO options Scientific Clinical Trial Research into more than promising Treatments and Therapies!

    Eliminating the cause of Multiple Sclerosis will
    End MS !
    So called Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been/is an UNPROVEN autoimmune THEORY based solely on SYMPTOMS !

    MANY Feel and KNOW So Called Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a Vascular Mechanical Issue NO Drug Treatment or Cannabis can Solely Rectify! #CCSVI

    • Linda Fitch says:

      On the contrary, MS is diagnosed by lesions on the brain and spinal cord found during an MRI, usually after it is suspected by symptoms of the disease. I myself had the venous treatment for MS, or CCSVI. Called the Liberation procedure, it was highly successful for a time but had to be repeated, twice. It was concluded to be another short term treatment for a complex condition not yet curable or even understood. The last venous procedure I had was not successful in relieving my symptoms, however there was no mechanical insufficiency found.

  2. Thank you for writing/posting this! It’s a very interesting article about a much under-reported symptom of MS.

    Most definitely. Hyperacusis drives me wild, it can just kick off like that or by other more pronounced types of noise. It causes nausea simply from hearing music, TV or people talking. I carry earplugs with me in my handbag in case it happens in outside environmental sounds, and especially wear them when watching loud films in cinemas for example. The saddest thing is that it leads to avoidance behaviour, as anxiety is a direct effect of being fearful of such noise, especially since I have trigeminal neuralgia also.

    I’ve written two blog posts about it because it’s still such an under-reported invisible symptom which sometimes is diagnosed as a mere migraine or trigeminal neuralgia.



    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Willeke,
      Thank-you for your kind comments and I relate to all you said! Thanks for sharing your blog, it is very good! The best to you, Debi

  3. Linda says:

    Oh my, you have made me feel not so alone. In the last few years, I have developed a startle reflex that will kick in at any unexpected noise no matter where I am. If a siren approaches while I am driving, the sound continues long past the time when I know, from prior experience, it should have faded. Airports, rush hour traffic, noisy outdoor crowds,even professional conferences cause me to shut down almost completely from sensory overload. Like you, I must seek a quiet corner in which to regroup and regain my focus

  4. Rhonda Danielson says:


    What you are describing is what my physical medicine doctor diagnosed me with about 2.5 years ago; it’s actually called allodynia, a hyper sensitivity to ANY stimulation, sight, touch, sound, smell, taste, temperature. Allodynia is caused by injury to the spinal cord.

    The over stimulation can result in something as “simple” as needing some quiet time/space (lucky you) to regroup, or, in my case, increasing tone until I go into a spasm that involves every muscle in my body and shuts down my breathing.

    The constant monitoring of my CNS for when the sensory input (usually light or sound) is becoming too much and I need isolation for every thing to calm down is exhausting.

    I constantly work at getting better at the monitoring.

    As for Chloe, find a reputable dog trainer, she can be taught to not bark. Her companionship can be a great comfort, and who knows, maybe you have the beginings of either a therapy dog or a service dog once all that barking energy is positively redirected.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Rhonda!
      Thank-you for sharing about allodynia, I have never heard of that and it is very interesting to learn about! Yes, I agree about Chloe! We have been trying to train her, but she may need a professional! best to you, Debi

    • Margaret Zalot says:

      I had a recent experience that probably falls into this category of allodynia. I was backing up into a parking spot. Someone, about 3 car widths away waved me to go back more. I did with a slight lift of my foot off the break. She then waved me back with a faster movement of her hand. This rapid movement “confused” me and I put my foot on the gas pedal and went over the concrete bumper with a loud crashing noise. Knocked off the muffler and ruined some infrastructure. Though I insisted it was the rapid wave motion that caused my reaction, others assumed it was my limited feeling in my right foot (which I was not complaining about)nor did I sense a decrease in feeling.

      Needless to say, I have been strongly encouraged not to drive since the “accident” and I’m dealing with a sudden loss of independence.

      I’m thinking that I reacted to “the sight of the moving hand,” but I have not heard of anyone with a similar reaction before.

      • Debi Wilson says:

        Hi Margaret, I’m sorry that happened to you! That is something to consider about the moving hand and Allodynia. Your Doctor would be an excellent resource to answer that question. Thanks for sharing and best to you! Debi

  5. Gregory says:

    I asked myself that ?.High pitch loud noise,treble,mower,music,tv,makes head&ears buzz.At a wedding table right at the speakers&was so loud I had to leave.I need to carry ear plugs also. Now I totally believe it makes things worse.

  6. Judi says:

    What surprises me is my change in music appreciation. Now I know why! Music I liked in the past now seems like just so much “noise.” Only the soft flowing tones are appreciated now! Soothing Christian instrumental, especially those from “Abide” are comforting, whereas, before, they were boring. Learning to flow with MS!

  7. Hazel Yates says:

    Very interesting article and interesting to see that people comment on sight sensitivity as I find that I am very uncomfortable around bright lights and seek out dimmed lighting whenever possible these days.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Thank-you Hazel! I appreciate your kind comments! I agree light sensitivity is a serious issue as well! Best to you, Debi

  8. Susan Leatham says:

    My experience with hyperacussis is that one should avoid ear plugs. Because you are training and reinforceing your brain that noise is a threat. Sooo flee. The fight or flight thing. Noise generators plus counselling from a hearing therapist helped greatly.

    • Debi Wilson says:

      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for sharing that information. Definitely something to discuss with our doctors! Also, great advice about seeing the hearing therapist. Best to you, Debi

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