When I first left home, tied my belongings in a red and white checkered handkerchief, tossed over my neck and headed for the bright lights of London, I was on a budget… Boy, was I ever… I had to live in a maisonette that was very nice and clean, at least after my family had helped me clean it… It had no parking facilities and not much of a garden… But what it did have was an above ground section of the underground train track running through the end of the garden. Lovely.

At first, the constant stream of noise was a nightmare… Yet after the first couple of weeks, I got used to it, ignored it and even strangely grew to like it and find it comforting! This was even in my pre-self-hypnosis days…

When I moved away from London many years later, I found the relative quiet hard to get used to… Though now I love it! In fact, this summer, the only noise I get in the night are apples falling from the fruit trees in our garden! (I nearly wrote “Katie snoring” but I would not survive the day if she read that here!)

There is an often told teaching tale about how prominent psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, went and slept a night in an extremely noisy boiler building to illustrate the ability of the mind to shut out noise… In a metaphorical sense, on several other levels, as well as the practical thing he did…

And I wonder if you or anyone you know has fallen asleep on a plane or even managed to concentrate on reading a book with that utter, constant, droaning hum going on? Where am I going with this? Well, apparently there are people campaigning for quiet now and telling of the harm of noise, let me continue…

Yes indeed, I was reading this article at the Gurdian which illustrates the point:

John Stewart was living in south London six years ago when two things happened that seriously affected his health. “First the flight paths were changed so planes passed over my flat every 90 seconds. Then a nearby laundry centralised all its activities into one site, so the noise of the machines permeated the whole block. They were going all day and during the night,” he says.

“I had to have the radio and TV on, even if I didn’t want to, just so I didn’t have to hear the outside noise. My sleep became interrupted and I ended up getting heart palpitations. My doctor said my blood pressure was too high, he was very worried about my heart, and I needed to take some serious action to reduce the stress before it killed me.” After Stewart moved house, he slowly got better.

There is growing evidence that noise-related stress is a significant public health hazard. According to a report from the World Health Organisation, unwanted noise is causing hearing impairment including tinnitus, disturbing our sleep and triggering stress hormones which could in turn affect the immune system and metabolism.

It also makes us feel helpless and more aggressive and increases the chances of having a heart attack or stroke, accounting for an estimated 3% of ischeamic heart disease (the most common cause of death in the EU) in Europe. “There is increasing evidence that air and road traffic noise might be related to high blood pressure,” says Stephen Stansfeld, professor of psychiatry at Barts and the London School of Medicine. “Exposure in school to aircraft noise is also linked to reading impairment in children.”

The article quotes other studies that show noise to be related to detrimental health effects. As a result, the issue of noise is gradually becoming much more important to individuals, groups and is finding its way onto the political agenda.

Many plans are now afoot apparently. However, I was interested in the article because it offers some way of personally dealing with noise, and guess what turns up? You guessed it, hypnotherapy:

A study funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and hypnotherapy helped reduce stress in those disturbed by low-frequency noise such as the low rumble of distant traffic, or the hum from an electric generator. “CBT is partly about enabling people to control the thing that is bugging them, rather than it controlling them,” says noise and vibration consultant Dr Geoff Leventhall, who conducted the study. “Try the following exercise: Visualise the noise as a big black ball. Move it around, nearer, further away, or change its colour and size if you want, and explode it. The point is to take control of whatever is worrying you.”

Trying to change your perception of the situation is particularly helpful if the culprit is moderate noise which doesn’t distress others (20-30% of the UK population are thought to be particularly noise-sensitive). “The meaning of noise is very important,” says Stansfeld. “If you are lonely then hearing other people’s parties can be upsetting. Airbases that emphasise their positive benefits to the local community are more warmly received than those that don’t.” To take part in the second stage of the study, go to copingwithnoise.org.
Focus on ‘flow’ activities

“Anything that relaxes you will also help,” says Leventhall, who recommends this meditative technique: “Sit in a comfortable chair and repeat ‘peace’ or ‘one’, for example, with each exhalation, for 10 or 20 minutes every day. The body responds with a dramatic decrease in heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure (if elevated to begin with), and metabolic rate — the exact opposite of the fight-or-flight response.”

I don’t recommend you learn to bore yourself in the way they recommend here, just go and learn self-hypnosis. I know someone who wrote a fabulous book on the subject 😉

The article also suggests ways we can turn our homes into seeming nuclear bunkers!

“For noisy streets, try thermal double glazing”, says John Hinton, president of the Institute of Acoustics, or try secondary glazing, adding an extra window pane four inches or so inside the existing double-glazed window. “Reduce aircraft noise by increasing the sound insulation of the loft, and put up fencing to reduce traffic noise.”

And noisy neighbours? “Increase the mass of the dividing wall or the floor by adding another layer of plasterboard,” says Hinton. Push for “low-noise road surfaces” from local authorities and fit ‘low-noise tyres” to cars. Soft foam earplugs marginally reduce noise (the equivalent of standing in the next room) and office din can be neutralised with noise-maskers.

I must say, I think I am lucky not to have permanently damaged my hearing in my younger clubbing days when my ears would ring for two days afterwards like I really had been in a nuclear war zone…

Hypnosis can be used in a variety of ways to aid your ability to overcome the affects of noise and I’m delighted it is being touted as such. Is there much unwanted noise in your life?