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Noise or Light Irritation

Learn more about experiencing noise or light irritation, treatment options, self-help tools, and resources to help you live well.

What is noise or light irritation?

Do you find yourself squinting at any light — even when it’s not very bright? Do loud noises cause you discomfort? Have you had headaches that make lights or sounds more painful to experience? These are all signs of noise or light irritation.

Light sensitivity, sometimes called photophobia, and noise sensitivity may make it difficult or painful to deal with even average lights or sounds. Light sensitivity can be related to sun glare, indoor fluorescent lights, or glare from a computer monitor. You may also have sound sensitivity to either loud or persistent noises around you. Sometimes, hypersensitivity to sound or light comes with headaches.

You may wonder why you have noise sensitivity or light sensitivity. Some Veterans experience these symptoms because of whiplash-related injuries from combat or accidents in military or civilian life. Veterans who have experienced possible traumatic brain injury may also have hypersensitivity to sound or light. Someone might also be easily startled by sidden noises after they have been through a traumatic experience. Certain eye conditions can also cause problems with glare or light sensitivity.

“Sometimes the lights in stores can give me an immediate headache. My eyes will sometimes hurt after turning on a light or going outside in the sunshine.”

Sensitivity to light and sound can interfere with your work and daily activities. Being unable to tolerate average levels of light or sound can make it difficult to go outside, participate in social events, or do your job. Sometimes noise or light irritation is related to other health conditions that should be addressed.

If I’m experiencing noise or light irritation, what can I do about it right away?

  • Learn what things trigger episodes of noise or light irritation so that you can avoid them.
  • Darken the room you're in, or wear earplugs.
  • Make adjustments to computer and TV screens.
  • Take breaks away from settings that you find difficult due to light and noise.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  • Do your best to get the right amount of sleep.

Certain drugs or medications may cause vision or hearing problems. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking medication and want to know if it could be affecting your sensitivity to noise or light. You should never stop taking a prescription without first consulting a medical professional.

Talking to your family and friends can be a good first step. They may have already noticed that you have hearing or vision issues and might be able to provide support and help you find out what’s causing these sensitivities.

Take the next step to connect with care.

Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments for managing noise or light sensitivity. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.

Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.

  • If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
  • With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
  • If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.

What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.  

  • The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
  • Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
  • VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
  • Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

What about support beyond VA?

There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.

Explore these resources for more information about Veterans experiencing noise and light irritation.

Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to noise or light irritation, such as problems with headaches, effects of traumatic brain injury, and posttraumatic stress.