The noise and racket of modern life are coming in loud and clear to our new Contributor, journalist and author Dawn Turner:
Recently, I moved back to the city from the country, and I've become acutely aware of sounds. Car alarms blaring. Sirens wailing. Cabbies blowing their horns. For me, loud car sounds are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Thankfully, chalkboards are close to extinction.
Certainly, I'm not the only person unnerved by sounds. Just ask George Clooney, when he hears a colleague typing furiously in the movie "Up in the Air":
When I was growing up, my mother would give my sister and me the side-eye if we popped our gum or tapped our pencils absent-mindedly. She did the same thing with strangers. To this day, I look over my shoulder if I crack my knuckles, and I never slurp my soup.
This irritation isn't just a mommy thing. The other night, I was eating popcorn while watching a movie with my daughter. It seemed like a lovely mother-daughter moment. But she turned to me and said, "OK, Miss Crunch and Munch!"
Miss Crunch and Munch?
There's a name for an extreme form of this. It's called "misophonia." Researchers have found structural changes in areas of the brain that may explain why some people have an incredibly heightened sensitivity to certain sounds.
But most of us aren't in decibel hell. Our discomfort is fleeting.
As for my ability to absorb the city's sounds, I've entertained a couple of solutions. One relies on plain old time.
I'm reminded of how I felt more than 20 years ago when I was a newcomer to my house in the country. Back then, it was the quiet that was disquieting, and nearly drove me nuts.
Until then … earbuds are the perfect solution.