Why Some Crave Quiet in Chaos

Mar 30 , 2024
By Kidist Yidnekachew

The scene that greeted me upon entering my house was pure pandemonium. My children, caught up in the throes of a lively game of catch, darted around with unbridled energy, their laughter ringing out like music in the air. An initial surge of joy at their exuberance quickly morphed into anxiety. Where was the peace and quiet I craved?

Retreating to the bedroom proved futile. The cacophony followed like a mischievous echo. At that moment, I noticed the nanny gazing at the scene unfolding outside with a serene smile adorning her face. Unlike me, she seemed unfazed by the reverberating sounds. It dawned on me then: not everyone is equally bothered by the boisterous sounds of children at play.

Loudness jeers at my senses. Public phone blasts and the enthusiastic hollering of my offspring – particularly in confined spaces – can be overwhelming. Sensory overload is a prime culprit. Children have not mastered the art of volume control, and their creations are accompanied by a high-decibel soundtrack. For adults accustomed to quieter environments, this onslaught of noise can disrupt focus, hinder relaxation, and leave us feeling audibly exhausted.

The struggle is especially relatable for those who work from home or live in close quarters. Tolerance for noise varies greatly. Some have a natural aversion to loudness, perhaps due to chronic noise pollution in their environment. For others, the racket of children at play can trigger a bittersweet wave of nostalgia. The joyous screams might transport them back to a seemingly simpler time. This longing can lead to frustration or envy.

Personality also plays a role. Introverts or those who crave order may find playtime's chaotic energy disruptive, as quiet time fuels their well-being. Mental health conditions like anxiety or sound sensitivity can further heighten this response. Loud noises and activity can trigger unease or fear, especially for those already prone to heightened stress. Societal expectations add another layer. Sometimes, it is misconstrued as aggression, leading to increased anxiety for adults worried about safety or judgment from others.

The irony is, I am a soft-rock enthusiast! Yet, others' musical preferences cranked to 11 can be torture. Music has a profound impact on us, creating a sonic environment that reflects our mood or activity. This curated experience is disrupted by intrusive music, especially at high volumes.

Part of the issue is the loss of control. When we choose our music, it becomes an extension of ourselves. Loudness amplifies this personalised soundscape. Someone else's music blasting into our space disrupts this control, creating a clash rather than a habitable coexistence of sound. The brain struggles to process multiple loud auditory inputs, making it difficult to tolerate music that differs from our own.

In shared spaces like public transportation or thin-walled apartments, blasting music becomes inconsiderate and disruptive. Confirmation bias, our tendency to favour choices, worsens the situation.

How do we create a harmonious soundscape?

By being mindful of social norms and respecting noise levels, we can ensure everyone can enjoy their auditory preferences without causing unnecessary disturbances. After all, a little consideration can go a long way in transforming the discord of life into a beautiful sound.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 30,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1248]

Kidist Yidnekachew is interested in art, human nature and behaviour. She has studied psychology, journalism and communications and can be reached at (kaymina21@gmail.com)

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