Phonophobia fear of noises
Phonophobia refers to fear of sound or fear of noises. This anxiety is very common in a dental setting and during dental emergencies
Phonophobia refers to the fear of sound. This condition is not a hearing disorder, but has got psychological roots. It is a condition where a person develops an irritation or anxiety towards a particular type of sound or sounds. These are the sounds that can be routinely heard by each one of us, but a phonophobic patient will respond to it in a much more intense and expressive manner. Phonophobia can occur to anyone irrespective of their age.
The sounds that are most commonly associated with phonophobia are the ones that are louder than normal. These include bursting of firecrackers, bursting of balloons, honking of cars in a traffic, etc. Even though most of these sounds or the ones in the same decibels can be routinely heard, patients of phonophobia exhibit a range of symptoms upon hearing this sound. In fact, the symptoms may start to appear the moment when they anticipate the incoming irritational sound. These symptoms include hefty breathing, sweating, increased heart rate, dizziness, nausea and headache. A patient with an increased severity of phonophobia may have a panic attack or an anxiety attack.
Phonophobia can either be hereditary or can occur due to traumatic incident in the past. In some families, phonophia is genetic and can be transferred in the subsequent generations. A traumatic incident, so severe that it has a deep impact on the patient's mental and emotional health can serve as the foundation of the phonophobia. The sounds that were heard the most during the traumatic incident will thus be unpleasantly met in the future.
It is important to note that even though the sounds that are associated with phonophobia are louder compared to normal decibels, the condition should not be confused with hyperacusis. Hyperacusis is when a normal sound will be heard in an abnormally amplified manner that leads to a distress. However, patients with hyperacusis do not fear these sounds and the condition is more of a hearing problem than a mental one.
Patients diagnosed with autism and the ones that have a tendency of migraine headaches often have phonophobia as a symptom. Autistic patients often have an inherent sensory problem in the brain, due to which they often fear certain sounds. In patients suffering from migraine, these sounds can trigger the migraine headache and cause a distressing feeling.
In a dental clinic, patients can develop a fear to the sound of the dental drill. This can lead to anxiety while seated in the dental chair and can prolong the treatment time. The fear of the dental drill sound might be because of a gloomy, painful visit to the dentist or the use of an injection needle before using the dental drill. The dentist needs to assure the patient that the dental drill is the way through which their teeth can be cleaned and free of infections. Later, the dentist will gradually introduce the dental drill in the oral cavity and will make the patient realize of their unwanted fear.
Phonophobia is a condition that can be managed with certain therapies. Since it is a mental condition, the treatment approach would target the patient's psych. Exposure Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Relaxation Therapies are the most commonly used methods. Exposure therapy involves making the patient cope with the distressing sound by exposing them to their phobic sound more often. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is one step ahead of exposure therapy. This therapy not only helps the patient cope with the phobic sound but also makes him or her realize as to why it is not a fearsome sound and why there should be no negative thoughts about the same. Finally, Relaxation therapies involve meditation, listening to calm music, etc. These therapies help in emotionally stabilizing the patient thereby helping them counter the anxiety and panic attacks.
Patients can help themselves by avoiding the trigger of the phobic sound. They can do so by plugging cotton in their ears, using headphones while the music is on, etc in public places where these sounds might be heard. Moreover, it is always wise to share with the people what unpleasant sound you fear. A patient of phonophobia must always have a relative or friend with him or her in public areas. These people can provide the necessary social support required in case the phobic sound triggers the anxiety and panic attacks.