Why are repetitive noises so annoying?

5th April 2012

Asked by: Matty Turner, Stoke

They keep on attracting our attention and prevent us from concentrating on other things. We quickly habituate (stop reacting) to some repetitive sounds, especially regular ones such as ticking clocks, but not to others. Speed matters, with slowly dripping taps being especially maddening. The main reason is lack of control – if you know you can stop the noise at any time you will not find it annoying.