Do you have difficulty in crowded or noisy places ... - Headway


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Do you have difficulty in crowded or noisy places because of your brain injury?


How does it affect you, and what strategies do you use to cope?

Many people experience this issue after brain injury, and it can really have an impact on day-to-day activities. From socialising and leisure activities to travelling and working, we'd like to find out more about how this affects people with brain injury and the ways it can be managed.

Let us know in the comments to help us put together an article on the subject.

Thank you for your help!

17 Replies

I have struggled since by bi with crowds and noise.

Luckily I am tall so don't feel to closed in when in crowds but if it is really crowded I can panic.

With noise it is strange but if it is really noisy and just a indistinct noise I am ok.

It's when you can make out different conversations I struggle filtering out who is talking to me.

When out in busy places I tend to sit in a corner or facing a wall so a to minimise the noise. I have tried sound cancelling head phones but feel more isolated in them. The same with ear plugs I fear out of conversation.

It is a lot of trial and error when going out but when visiting new places I will give it a few visits before writing a place off.

Another thing I tend to find myself doing is noticing a quick exit point in case of panic. This I seem to do automatically now.

It is easy to give in to bad experiences and think what's the point. I have previously been like this and found it no way to live.


monmon1974 in reply to paxo05

need regular check up with specialist, they can use different kind of testing to adjust the optimum level of hearing

For travel, I use the TFL invisible visibility badge and find a seat, the badge means I feel more comftable using the disabled seats etc. it's compounded by the fact that the crowed/noisy places tend to tire me quickly, and find it hard to balance/walk well in crowed places.

does depend some times there is easy, choice, so for example rather the multiplex cinema which is full of over sugared/caffenated teens, dark screens etc, all of which is bad! i go with my wife to one of the swisher Cinemas which is smaller quieter places, and enough light so i don't spoil any ones night by landing on them attempting to walk to my seat!

Totally deaf in one ear and wear a hearing aid in the other, my worse noise is tinnitus that is all of the time. I have got used to it now but it's still a nuisance. The other one is repetitive noise. Mind, all I have to do is turn the hearing aid off and ignore almost everything. Dave

I struggled with noise and crowds for the first year or two. I worked hard to 'get back to normal' and they are no issue to me now. I visit and enjoy cities and music festivals nowadays. For me it became a mind over matter issue. Thankfully I succeeded.

RogerCMerriman in reply to DTBI

Pubs/cafes I can do mind over matter, but stuff like music festivals are just too much, it too much of some information, lots of noice from all the people and moving past me. and not enough information that my balance can cope. there is something about the decking they also use that does bad things to my balance!

DTBI in reply to RogerCMerriman

No guarantees of course, but your flexibility may change in the future. Good luck

Early on, I found both crowded and wide empty places difficult to deal with. It used to accelerate headaches and fatigue.

Wide open spaces used to affect me because I had balance problems with my inner ear (correct by Epley) and Visual Mid line shift syndrome. So within an open space I had very little to focus on to get a sense of vertical.

Bizzy spaces with lots of people gave the opposite problem to much information to process. Whilst i was walking slowly people coming towards me, passed me, across my path plus trying to remember where I was going plus what I was going to do there was just too much.

Supermarkets used to multiply the sensory overload with bright lights, music and the high shelving units.

I never found a solution apart from avoiding it altogether.

Yes, I do jave difficulty in noisy places. I mostly remain quiet. I am a quiet person anyway but in these situations I try not male a peep.

And if I am talking to a person or people in a noisy environment I can hardly hear what I am saying so I raise my voice so I can hear a little better but I think to other people they think I am shouting.

One of the things I do not like is if you were in a pub and it was pretty quiet and then loud mouth people enter. It makes me think "Why do you have to talk so loud?". Most of these people who talk loudly like this either love the sound of their own voice or they listen to music a lot via earphones with the music on loud no doubt. I do think that earphones lead to deafness.

The best thing to do if I were in a loud environment is get out of there to somewhere quiet. But if I am with family or friends there's not a lot I will do about it. I could leave to a quieter area but I don't want to leave the party.

I am thankful that my life is, most of the time, pretty quiet and I am lucky to have parents who prefer the quiet rather than noise.

I also struggle since brain injury with noisy places. I have yet to manage a full session at headway. When I first went a year and a half ago it was a real struggle to follow conversations. I can now follow up a few people round a a table. Although it takes a lot of concentration and I tend to have a headache afterwards i use to always have a nap afterwards but not every week now. Crowds out and about i have learnt to accept I haven't got much of a clue what's going around me. As I am never alone makes it easier to know the person with me knows if they want to tell me/as me something they tell me tge need to get mt attention first. It also helps if i can see them it helps if can see their face. Struggle when people ask lots of questions so friendly people at tills can be difficult and sometimes embarasing. I have a card my speech therapist made me in side my purse do i refer to this if stuck if In emergencies their is my headway card.

I am married wit children and sadly I have to distance myself on an evening from them as the noise all day is too much. I have learned to spend some time earlier on in the evenings.a few times a week to spend one to one time with my kids to try make up for it. I use to retreat about 5pm it's now about 7pm I retest to my bedroom and watch tv with noise cancelling headphones and I also use subtitles as I miss alot of what's been said it somehow helps. Oh and thank goodness I can pause and rewind as my mind wanders a lot. So can rewind if I remember where I was lol.

Good old sensory overload!!!!

My coping strategies are to limit exposure.

When this is not possible eg waiting rooms....I make myself known to the receptionist and let them know that I will be just outside and to call me please.

Before my filters from audiology I would regularly do what I call putting the budgie to bed. This involves finding the nearest place to sit down (preferably in a corner) pulling a coat hold down to cover my eyes and sticking my fingers in my ears.

The best thing is to remember to breathe long and slow. It helps me focus and regain control.

It doesn't work unfortunately for exposure to certain sounds. Instant agony and part of the reason I call myself random phantoms.

That covers the noise aspect for me.

Crowds. There's another thing.

I find that if I miss my eye exercises for just one or two days crowds are a nightmare. Movement appearing and disappearing in all directions with no ability to predict any of it can throw me so easily and in combination with the noise balance and orientation go awry.

None of this is helped by my feeling the overwhelming need to finish whatever the task in hand is.

I am hyper sensitive to noise post BI and crowded noisy places are a nightmare... but it is not just noise in isolation it is also colours and smells and movements and they all seem to combine to further amplify everything...and the result is that i can feel sick and dizzy or get totally overwhelmed to the point of becoming mute and non functioning wanting to run but unable to move or articulate my needs. It is horrible.

I would never consider going to anywhere I knew would be crowded or noisy without someone I trust with me and an escape plan. Of course sometimes you don;t know until you get there... and then we cope as best we can...and if all else fails we leave.

If I go to a restaurant and it is busy and loud I try to sit in a corner with my back to the wall - somehow this makes me feel a little more grounded. Then I have to focus on something that is not bright, shiny or moving (often a spot on the table) while I concentrate on my breathing for a few minutes. I have to find a way to filter out noise because I simply cannot think and am unable to make even a simple menu choice. My default setting is to run, but having a companion who understands what is happening and will wait quietly, or talk calmly and softly to me until I am settled really helps.

For things like supermarkets I avoid well known busy times, I always use a shopping trolley as it helps ground me and keep my balance and I just try to focus on getting up one aisle at a time.

I book airline seats in a quieter part of the cabin, I book seats in quiet carriages on trains and I don't use the underground unless it is essential, in off peak period and I have someone with me. I would never try that on my own.

I have earplugs in every single jacket or coat pocket and every hand bag and keep spares in the car but even with earplugs it can be too much. Some places I used to love are no longer an option for me... cinemas, concerts etc for example and modern shopping centres with shiny floors, bright lights, lots of glass, blaring muzac and horrible acoustics are just out of the question.

I agree with random phantoms summary of the issue...Good old sensory overload!!!!

The best coping strategy i have found is to limit exposure. But Other strategies include :

-Ear plugs (to subdue the volume)

-sun glasses (to subdue the brightness on the eyes)

-wear a hat (to limit the stimulation on the eyes a little)

-find the least populated route for travel e.g. Off peak, or slower train (as opposed to busy fast train)

-plan ahead, often venues will reserve a quieter corner space for you when you call and request it. One restaurant even opened their overflow restaurant space just to put us in it on our own😃, bless them.

-call the venue to ascertain when the busy times are, and when the least busy times are.

-go with a friend. It's always easier with a pal by your side.

Hope that helps .

God bless.

I have always had some misophonia, which is an irrational response to particular or loud sounds, but the neurological trauma has made it so much worse. I find myself shaking from head to foot sometimes and violently sick from noise, especially if combined with too many people or awful lighting situations like LEDs. Ear plugs and music help some, but I couldn't use either at my last job. The noise and lights there made me so ill and anxious that I've experienced tremendous physical and mental relief since leaving that company.

I was both relieved and saddened to read so many other people have the same issues.

fredikins in reply to Teladrin

I came over all a tingle reading your post, had been reading through and was considering a post mentioning misophonia as I thought maybe no one had heard of it, (you'll know what I mean by that I'm sure). Its been hard to tell if its the miso' or the BI as some symptoms overlap, I have often wondered if the one multiplies the other. Throw in some strong aspergers traits and you might understand why I view noise as the "enemy" I avoid even libraries now, more a hybrid of nursery and village hall, I can remember being almost scared to cough in the old days, when libraries were a place sought out for solace. The flight response is to be avoided at all costs as the shaking you describe is probably the most uncomfortable feeling I have ever experienced, and having mobility issues I cant run and when in that shaking mode I feel like I am more likely to fall. Its earplugs with ear defenders over the top of those for peace. MIsophonia would be interesting if not such a ruddy nuisance. It is somehow comforting to read others woes.

Since my tbi sometimes i struggle to find the words i want to say its very frustrating and trying to keep up with conversation with more than 1 person is hard.if thers 2 or3 people a lose the conversation and feels like im watching verbal ping lucky to have wonderful parents who can listen to drs and people trying to tell me things.i struggle to take in information


Right after my TBI I suffered from sensitivity to noise very badly. I could hear too much noise coming from all directions.

I avoided crowded and noisy places as much as possible as it was tiring for me. Someone suggested that I try ear defenders, these work well but I wouldn't want to wear them in public places for safety reasons e.g. needing to be alert and aware of my surroundings.

It's been over a year and a half since my accident and I am getting on much better with noise around in my environment. Given a choice i still prefer quieter, peaceful environments rather than bustling crowds.

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