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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: Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with useful resources and effective treatments for managing noise or light sensitivity. If sound or light sensitivity, hearing loss, or vision problems are affecting your health and well-being or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:

  • Your doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does. If you feel comfortable enough with your physician, he or she may be able to help you find tools to manage noise and light irritation even without direct experience with Veterans.
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center. VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans.
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist or counselor, who may be able to teach you new skills for coping with your sensitivity to light and sound
  • A medical specialist, such as an ophthalmologist (a physician who specializes in medical or surgical problems of the eyes) or an audiologist (a health care professional who specializes in hearing and balance problems)

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.