When Lynn was younger, she realized that sometimes she would hear things at work that no one else could. It was all so unsettling: a rattle in the overhead air conditioning unit, a cricket down the hall, cars on the highway late at night—and her house wasn't even near the road.
Lynn says that before she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 38, she attributed her heightened aural response to incidents that affected her hearing. There was that loud rock concert she'd attended, and later, a car accident that resulted in sandy water inundating her left ear.
Yet the Florida woman "couldn't account for the rage" that went along with her episodes of hyped-up hearing. After a decade of learning to manage her bipolar, she now sees a connection between her moods and noise sensitivity.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a significant slice of people with bipolar experience an almost painful reaction to noise, especially during mood episodes—usually mania. When it comes to scientific proof, however, no one's doing the research that would validate that connection.
There's occasional recognition in scientific circles, such as in a 2013 study at Baylor College of Medicine that was actually looking at a specific gene's role in bipolar disorder.
As a result, he says, "colors are brighter, sex is enhanced, and you feel smarter. There's a heightened openness to experience, so it doesn't surprise me that there's heightened sensitivity to sound. Meanwhile, almost the opposite happens with depression."
As part of the overall revved-up reactivity that people experience in hypomanic and manic phases, "they're more attuned and aware of ambient noise," he notes.