When sudden sounds cause anxiety: signs you’re dealing with phonophobia

9 May '2018 Life

Our world is full of (unexpected) sounds. A phone ringing, an alarm going off, a car suddenly honking its horn, a person bursting out in laughter, the list is endless. And where those occurrences could make us jump, it is way worse for a person with phonophobia.


Phonophobia (or ligyrophobia) is an anxiety disorder, so not a hearing disorder. With this disorder, sudden loud and unexpected sound can cause anxiety attacks. This means that people living with phonophobia become very uneasy in their everyday life, as they are always fearing the moment when an unexpected sound can occur. Here are a couple of symptoms that can show that you have phonophobia (occurring after you hear a loud, unexpected noise):

  • Excessive sweating
  • Desire to flee
  • Panic attack
  • Fainting
  • Severe mood swings
  • Irregular heartbeat

How to cope

There is no cure for phonophobia. There is treatment, however. This is quite similar to the treatment of misophonia, in where you have strong reactions to specific sounds. A reason for this is that phonophobia can sometimes refer to an extreme form of misophonia.

Exposure therapy is very popular. With exposure therapy, you expose people with phonophobia to sudden, loud noises and try to get them to get used to this occurrence. With cognitive behavioral therapy, one tries to develop coping strategies. These strategies help to change unhelpful cognitive patterns (thoughts and beliefs for example) that lead to certain behavior.

Also, there are more ways that can help you to cope with phonophobia. Use headphones and/or wear earplugs when outside or in noisy surroundings. Try to distance yourself from noisy triggers. Furthermore, explain to others what you are dealing with. Social support helps, plus they will do their best to not trigger your phonophobia by accident.


Living with phonophobia is tough. We want to stress that seeing a professional is essential. However, finding solace by others always helps, we find. There are various support groups on the internet that could be a great help. We wish you all the best and would love for you to share your story with us.


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