PHONOPHOBIA (fear of loud sounds): symptoms, causes and treatment

PHONOPHOBIA, also called phonophobia, is persistent and intense fear of loud or very high-pitched sounds. It usually occurs in young children, although it is also common in adults who are constantly exposed to these stimuli.

We will see below what PHONOPHOBIA is and what are its main symptoms and treatment.

    PHONOPHOBIA: Fear of loud sounds

    The word “PHONOPHOBIA” is composed of the Greek “ligir” which means “high” and can be applied to sounds of this type; and the word “phobos”, meaning “by”. In this sense, PHONOPHOBIA is literally the fear of high-pitched sounds. Another name by which this fear is known is “phonophobia”, which is derived from “fon” (sound).

    PHONOPHOBIA is a phobia of a specific type, because it is characterized by the fear of a particular stimulus (loud sounds or very high-pitched sounds). This fear can occur in the presence of noise, but not necessarily. too much it can be triggered in a situation where a loud sound is expected to be presented.

    This is common for example in popular festivals where firecrackers, rockets or balloons are used, or also in people who have prolonged contact with electronic devices that can emit high-pitched sounds. It can also be applied to both sounds and different voices or even one’s own voice.

    So persistent, PHONOPHOBIA it may not be a psychological fear, but a symptom of hyperacusis, Which is the decrease in tolerance to natural sounds caused by alterations in the physiology of hearing.

      main symptoms

      Most specific phobias generate the activation of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for regulating the involuntary movements of our body, for example visceral movements, breathing, palpitations, among others.

      In this sense, in the presence of the stimulus that causes the phobia, the symptoms that are triggered are mainly hyperventilation, sweating, increased heart rate, decreased gastrointestinal activity, And in specific cases a panic attack can be generated.

      In general, these responses, which they are characteristic of anxiety imagesThey are functional for our body because they allow us to defend ourselves against harmful stimuli. But, in other circumstances, these responses may be elicited in a non-adaptive manner, in the face of stimuli that do not represent real harm but perceived harm.

      To be considered a phobia, this fear must be considered an irrational fear, that is, it must be generated in the face of stimuli that generally do not cause fear, or it must generate a disproportionate anxious response before the stimulus. The person may or may not be aware that their fear is unwarranted, but this does not help alleviate it.

      Specifically, PHONOPHOBIA occurs more frequently in young children. This is not to say that adults shouldn’t be afraid or alert to hear a loud sound that comes on suddenly, but that the anxiety response may be more intense in young children. Finally, as can happen with other specific phobias, PHONOPHOBIA it can generate avoidant behaviors in social spaces or meetings, which generates additional discomfort.

      some causes

      Phobias can be caused by direct negative experiences with the stimulus, but not necessarily. Depending on the severity and frequency of these experiences, the likelihood of a phobia consolidating may change. Other factors involved in the consolidation of a phobia are the number of safe experiences before the stimulus, as well as the infrequent frequency of positive exposure with the stimulus, after the negative event.

      Also, specific phobias are acquired more easily when faced with stimuli that directly threaten the survival of the organism, for example, this is the case with diseases. It can also increase the likelihood of developing an intense fear of stimuli. when these generate direct physiological discomfort, Which would be the case for intense sounds in PHONOPHOBIA.

      The expectation of danger that each person has is also involved in the development of specific phobias. If the expectations match the person’s experience with the stimulus, the phobia is more likely to develop.

      In the same vein, elements such as conditioned learning of fear responses, Coping skills, degree of social support and threatening information the person has received in relation to the stimulus.


      It is important to consider that many of the specific phobias that develop during childhood tend to decrease in adolescence and adulthood without requiring treatment. On the other hand, it can happen that a fear very present during childhood does not trigger a phobia but even in adulthood.

      If the fear of the stimulus not only causes discomfort, but causes clinically significant discomfort (This prevents the person from performing their daily activities and generates disproportionate anxiety responses), there are different strategies that can help to modify the approach with the stimulus and reduce the unpleasant response.

      Some of the most used are systematic desensitization, relaxation techniques, successive approaches to stimuli that cause phobia, vicarious exposure technique or symbolic modeling, participating model, live exposure, imaginative techniques. and retreatment by eye movements.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bados, A. (2005). Specific phobias. Faculty of Psychology. Department of Personality, Psychological Assessment and Treatment. University of Barcelona. Retrieved September 20. Available at
      • Ligyrophobia. (2007). Accessed September 20, 2018.Available at

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