Most causes of noisy breathing at rest in a seemingly normal body won’t kill you, but some are life-threatening while others will almost always be accompanied by other concerning symptoms.

Sometimes, a person’s breathing can be heard clear across a room — even though they are not “out of breath” or panting from having just run up a flight of stairs.

That person could just be sitting there reading or texting, but you can hear the breathing.

This is not normal, though this can be nothing more than an annoying habit to those nearby.

First of all, if someone is in a hospital, it won’t be surprising to easily hear each breath from across a room if they have any of the following conditions:

  • Blood clot in a lung
  • Bodywide infection
  • Shock from blood or fluid loss
  • End stage liver cirrhosis

But what about the seemingly normal man or woman who’s just sitting somewhere in public or at home and has loud and annoying breathing?

This person could also be sitting next to you on a plane, and you’re forced to hear every single breath.

“Audible breathing could mean nasal congestion (due to a cold or possibly an anatomic issue like a deviated septum),” says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, and Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.

“Also, noisy breathing could happen with an asthma exacerbation or in people with chronic lung disease or heart failure who are having difficulty breathing,” adds Dr. Besser.

“Panting or rapid breathing may not necessarily accompany people with this issue (especially if they are fatiguing and it’s getting harder to breathe).”

More Serious Causes of Noisy Breathing

• Fever from pneumonia or the flu

• Heart attack

• Abnormal heart rhythm

• Severely high blood pressure in one’s lungs

• Blood entanglement in the brain

• Lung cancer

• Respiratory system obstruction

• Severe anemia (low red cell count)

• Thyroid disorder

• Obstructive sleep apnea

Less Serious Causes of Heavy or Noisy Breathing

• Fever (lower grade)

• Bronchitis

• Pregnancy

• Dehydration

• Anxiety

• Allergies

Remember, some individuals DO breathe rather loudly or noisily, simply out of habit, or because they are obese.

It’s a chronic situation with them rather than suddenly out of the blue, and tight clothes may contribute.

Since so many conditions can lead to noisy breathing, it’s important to see a doctor if you have new-onset, unexplained “heavy” breathing.

Dr. Besser provides comprehensive family care, treating common and acute primary conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Her ongoing approach allows her the opportunity to provide accurate and critical diagnoses of more complex conditions and disorders.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


noisy, loud breathing