Coping With Noise-Triggered Headaches

You are not alone if you avoid fireworks on July 4th or frequently find yourself telling your children that their loud voices are giving you a headache. In fact, noise is a commonly reported headache trigger for people who are prone to headaches.

Man holding his head in pain
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Let's take a closer look at the relationship between noise and headaches, and how you can cope with them.

The Science Behind Noise as a Headache Trigger

Noise is a scientifically proven potential headache trigger for people who have migraines or tension-type headaches. And people who are prone to migraines are more likely to experience loud noises as unpleasant compared to people who do not experience migraines.

The Mechanism Behind Noise-Triggering Headaches

Like all triggers, the precise mechanism behind how noise triggers a headache is unclear. Since noise is a trigger for both migraines and tension-type headaches, there is likely more than one mechanism involved.

One study found that those who developed a headache from noise had an increase in their temporal pulse amplitude. The temporal pulse amplitude is a measure of the pressure in the blood vessel, and it is commonly increased in association with headaches.

According to more recent migraine theories, the distension of blood vessels surrounding the skull may activate trigeminal sensory nerve fibers. This then evokes the release of proteins, like calcitonin gene-related peptide, or CGRP, which worsens brain inflammation and pain.

Nervous system hyperarousal likely plays a role too, as evidenced by the other symptoms (besides headaches) that occur with persistent and loud noise exposure.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Eyestrain
  • Hypersensitivity to odors

How to Stop Loud Noises from Triggering Headaches

Stopping noises from triggering your headaches can certainly be a dilemma. Since avoiding loud noises may be impossible in some instances (your children or ongoing construction near your home are inevitably going to be loud, for example), learning how to cope with loud noises through a process called desensitization may be your best bet.

Desensitizing oneself to headache triggers, like loud noises, means gradually exposing yourself to the headache trigger to decrease your head pain or number of headaches in the future when exposed to that same trigger. This therapy is also commonly used for people with anxiety disorders, especially people with phobias.

The idea of learning to cope with triggers through gradual exposure is becoming a more popular treatment for headache health. More studies need to be done, but regardless, this is an exciting, non-invasive intervention and something people with headaches get to take an active role in.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone is different when it comes to headache triggers. If you find that noise is triggering headaches, you may consider avoiding the trigger if it's easy to do so, such as avoiding the fireworks that occur once a year or avoiding indoor music concerts. Likewise, if you find that loud noises at work are triggering headaches, talk with your boss about how this can be minimized. Maybe you can wear earplugs or headphones during certain parts of the day.

If you are sensitive to everyday noises, then a coping strategy like desensitization may be more useful. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are unsure. Don't let noise-triggered headaches affect your happiness.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Martin PR, Todd J, Reece J. Effects of noise and a stressor on head pain. Headache. 2005 Nov-Dec;45(10):1353-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.00268.x

  3. Lee S, Lee W, Roh J, Won JU, Yoon JH. Symptoms of nervous system related disorders among workers exposed to occupational noise and vibration in Korea. J Occup Enviro Med. 2017 Feb;59(2):191-97. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000935

  4. Martin PR, Mackenzie S, Bandarian-balooch S, et al. Enhancing cognitive-behavioural therapy for recurrent headache: design of a randomised controlled trial. BMC Neurol. 2014;14:233. doi:10.1186/s12883-014-0233-9

Additional Reading

By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.