It is natural for people to sometimes be annoyed with sounds throughout their day. Nails on a chalkboard, loud chewing, incessant pen clicking, etc. However, those with misophonia suffer extreme physical and emotional reactions to sounds. Feelings of anger and anxiety can arise from hearing innocent, everyday sounds others might not even notice. Misophonia is a newly identified health disorder and one that may affect many people unknowingly.
Literally translated, misophonia means “hatred of sound”. In fact, it refers to a dislike or hatred of very specific sounds that trigger an emotional or physical response. It can be very similar to the fight-or-flight response and can put those affected into a state of high discomfort. Hearing the sound triggers a desire to escape and anger. How strong a reaction is and how someone with misophonia responds varies a lot. Some may just become irritated while others can go into a complete rage.
Both men and women can start to develop it at any age. However, people generally start to show misophonia symptoms in their late childhood and early teenage years. That said, it can develop at any time across the lifespan. Often, it will start with one sound that will trigger a reaction. Following that initial episode, other sounds can also get the same response.
An interesting note is that people with misophonia can see that their reaction to these sounds seems disproportionate to the sounds themselves. Because of this, they might feel like they are losing control of themselves. The feelings can be very intense and might give them feelings of embarrassment or shame. In fact, people often feel too embarrassed to talk to their doctors about it.
Misophonia has some conditions associated with it as a result of the toll it takes. Depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and sleep deprivation are a few of the more commonly seen problems. However, it is not always clear whether they come from misophonia or the other way around.
This sound sensitivity syndrome can have a profound effect on someone’s life. It is a very real disorder. It is a condition that can make it difficult to function, putting stress on one’s mental health and social life. But because we don’t know much about it, it can be difficult to talk about.
Examples of Annoying Noises
Apparently, not all sounds have the same likelihood of triggering misophonia. While sound sensitivity can of course change between people, there are certain sounds that seem to get more of a response. According to a study in Amsterdam, the most common triggers of people were as follows:
- Eating sounds – eating sounds seem to affect the highest percentage of people. At 81 percent, this is the most common stimulus that affects people with misophonia
- Loud breathing or nose sounds – this one comes in at second place, with 64.2 percent of people being affected.
- Finger/hand sounds – any type of sounds involving hands rubbing, or fingers moving comes in third with 59.5 percent.
But these are just a few of the things that really seem to be difficult for a person with misophonia to deal with. Sound sensitivity can really be for anything. It is generally unique to the person. Many more sounds can be triggers for people with misophonia.
- Teeth grinding
- Chewing with your mouth open
- Lip smacking
- Loud throat clearing
- Pen clicking
While it is defined as only applying to sound, it is possible that a sound and action combined can make someone with the disorder have a response. The combination of the sound and action of someone biting their nails or shaking their leg on a table can be a trigger.
Interestingly, humans produce most sounds and sights that trigger people with misophonia. If the sound comes from an animal eating, it often will not trigger the same physical and emotional reactions.
It is important to note that while these are generalizations, anything can be a possible source of sound sensitivity. Keeping track of sounds that trigger you and what you feel assist you in being in control.
In all truth, this disorder can affect daily life. Many people who have misophonia avoid social situations where they feel they might be triggered. With proper care, education, and treatment, misophonia can be managed. There are many healthcare professionals who can provide assistance to you and your friends and family, and treatment can help it become less of a barrier to living your normal life. Therefore, education for yourself and your family and friends can make life-changing differences.
Because sufferers of misophonia often have other conditions associated with it, certain medications may be available. These can treat things like anxiety, depression and lack of sleep. However, no medication is available today to treat misophonia itself.
Audiologists are able to take a look for other auditory problems and see if there are other concerns as well. One common treatment is an in-ear white noise generator. Depending on what sounds you are hearing that trigger you, the earpiece can generate white noise at a frequency that will help hide the trigger sounds. Similarly, just wearing headphones can help deal with the everyday sounds outside that are so distracting and make them difficult to hear.
Cognitive behavioral therapy can be another way to get help. Therapists can teach you how to find coping mechanisms to deal with sounds as they occur. It can also make it easier to deal with triggers and help lessen the impact. Occupational therapists can help people have a full sensory diet. It is a system used to balance out the sensory system and help lower the impact of triggers. This is useful in self-regulation when you can’t control what is happening around you.
Last but not least, you have some control. Your personal lifestyle matters. Getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep help you manage your stress and put you in a positive mindset. Maintaining a quiet or safe place in your home can also help, giving you somewhere to escape to when the symptoms become too overwhelming.
The key is to have a variety of things working together. A multi-disciplinary approach gives the best results.
Misophonia: Final Thoughts
We have many new conditions and disorders we are learning about in this modern age. The brain is a mystery we are still unraveling, and so is misophonia. While experts don’t know much about it yet, there is no reason to feel alone with many other sufferers in the world.
Remember, be sensitive to someone suffering from Misophonia. It is a disorder that can be difficult to live with. Proper education for both the people with the condition and those around them can make it much more manageable. In the end, it is still new, but the research being done to find out more about misophonia really can help those with this disorder comfortable lives.