All auditory sound information is filtered, sequenced and fine tuned by the inner-ear system. If this system is impaired, you may be hypersensitive to certain loud or piercing noises, such as: a clap of thunder, a fire alarm, a police siren, screeching brakes, a ringing telephone, a tire blowout. If any of these sounds provoke severe or uncontrollable anxiety, phobias may develop.
Notice how this mechanism is highlighted in Evan’s description of his auditory phobias:
“There are certain sounds that I have always been very sensitive to and therefore avoid: high-pitched or shrill female voices on the radio, running water, dishes banging together, dogs barking, and normally pitched voices in small, confined areas. The sound of speeding trucks on the turnpike drives me crazy. And music, even classical music, must be kept at a low volume. If not, I feel jangled and upset.”
When auditory information is not being properly processed you may be hypersensitive to all loud noise or even to garbled noise, such as the noise of a crowd. Thus, for example, Robert has panic attacks that are triggered by various noisy environments. He explains:
“I can´t go to a restaurant unless I know it´s a really quiet place. If I´m stuck in a noisy restaurant I start to sweat. I just want to jump up and scream, ‘Shut up… please… before I go crazy!’ Obviously I don´t. I just run out of the room. I know this isn´t normal, but I can´t help it. The noise just freaks me out.”
Loud or garbled noise makes some phobics dizzy or disoriented. This indicates that several faulty inner-ear mechanisms i.e. auditory, balance, and compass can jointly contribute to the development of phobic behavior.
COORDINATION – RELATED PHOBIAS
The inner ear acts like a guided-missile system, coordinating and fine tuning your movements, voluntary and involuntary, and thoughts. When this system is impaired, coordination problems may trigger anxiety especially when these problems subject you to embarrassment, frustration, or danger. If this anxiety is severe or uncontrollable, phobic behavior may develop.
Coordination-Related Phobias: An Example
Sylvia has a coordination-related fear of driving:
“I´m embarrassed to admit it, but I can´t drive. I panic at the wheel. I can´t steer the car. I can´t keep it on a straight line. This is terrifying. I could never understand why it was so easy for most people. It´s hard to believe that only you can´t drive. Even now, as I think about this, I could cry.”
Stairs, Escalators, and Elevators:
The fear of escalators, stairs, and elevators frequently stems from coordination problems. Here is how Susan described her fear of escalators and elevators:
“I would go up the escalator, but never down. I was terrified of falling. Actually, I feared that my foot might become caught on the step. I couldn´t figure out which foot to step on with first. I was afraid of riding in an elevator unless someone was with me. I was afraid the door would crush me. It just didn´t seem that there was enough time to get safely inside before the door closed.”
ANTICIPATING THE WORST
When a phobic trigger provokes anxiety, fear, or panic, that response is imprinted in the memory banks of your brain. Once this happens, your brain has actually learned to panic in the same way it once learned to tie a shoelace or ride a bicycle.
As a result, the majority of phobics don´t have to look down from the top of a twenty-story building to know they are afraid of heights… they don´t have to hear thunder to know they´re afraid of loud noises… they don t have to stand alone in an empty parking lot to know they´re afraid of wide-open spaces… they don´t have to get stuck in an elevator to know they´re afraid of small, enclosed spaces… they feel it in their very souls. In fact, the mere anticipation of such a confrontation is often enough to trigger anxiety, fear, or total panic.
The vast majority of phobias can be traced to a physiological problem: a malfunction within the inner-ear system! The inner-ear system plays an important role in modulating and controlling anxiety. In my blog I have further discussed these problems.