Satanic Superpower: Hypersensitive Hearing

April 20, 2018

I hate the sound of chewing.




I don’t mean “the sound of chewing mildy irritates me”. I mean, “the sound of chewing makes me palms sweat, my asshole clench and my body seize up”.


I have two very nice coworkers. Unfortunately, as sweet as they are, they are loud chewers. Open mouthed, lip smacking, crunching, “mm mm yum” kinda loud chewers.


On some days, they can crunch and munch on breakfast, lunch, crackers, name it...for HOURS.


When that happens, I can hardly focus to get any work done.


At one point last week during a staff meeting, the sound of the gum that had been chewed for two hours intertwined itself with my cortex so bad that I dug my nails into my palm so hard that I bled. It was not a great day.


So why does this bother me so much? I’m not just an asshole, it’s a symptom of my bipolar disorder called “hypersensitivity”.


Hypersensitivity can occur in manic or depressive states and is noticeable as a condition from an “amplified” state of mind. When my mind is completely amplified, these sounds like nail files, clicking nails, repetitive moaning and sighing all make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I become highly irritated, jolted, anxiety ridden and cannot tune those sounds out.


When I tried to subtly mention it to my co worker, it was laughed off. How could I be so silly? It’s just sound ha ha. They tell me i’m “cranky” for no reason when I block them out with music, so I can’t win.


I can’t just “get over it” or “tune it out” - that’s just not how mental illness works. Instead I have to swallow it down every day and not say anything. It’s torture.


According to, here’s what I can do:


  • Acknowledge the hypersensitivity

    • It’s important to accept what our body is doing and realize it’s normal to feel anxious and we should try not to fear the sensitivity to sound. Practice self-compassion and remind yourself you are facing your fears.

  • Be prepared

    • Do some problem solving with your therapist and make a plan for the next time noise intrudes your life. Decide on a plan of action if you find yourself in an intolerable situation—be prepared to leave a movie theatre or other public place without feeling embarrassed.

  • Know your triggers

    • Once you understand what sets you off, you can do your best to avoid these situations or at least mute the effects. Wear noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds to eliminate unwanted noise or listen to something more pleasant. Incorporate some white noise into your environment—use a white noise machine, or install a white noise app on your smartphone.

  • Check your state of mind

    • When sounds are starting to bother you, analyze where you are mood-wise. Putting your noise intolerance into the context of symptomatic hypersensitivity may highlight the need for some overall self-care.

  • Consider the source

    • If someone, not something, is creating an intolerable noise, try to ask yourself if the person actually intends to aggravate you. Chances are, the answer is no. Remembering that may help keep you from overreacting.

  • Identify quiet zones

    • Create a designated area in your home where silence reigns supreme. Look for safe environments where you can retreat to, such as a library, outdoors in a quiet park, or a church.

  • Redirect your attention

    • If possible, switch your focus from the pain of noise to something else that requires extreme focus but that’s enjoyable for you. Have a plan with a family member or friend for them to help redirect your attention away from the offending noise.


Trying to live a normal life when you are bipolar can be really hard. I have to bite my tongue not to ask people why they can’t chew with their mouths closed like an irrational wildebeest. I also get freaked by loud traffic noises, things being dropped, and get paranoid if I hear rustling in another room.


If I could give up any superpower, it’s this one.


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