Hate is a strong word. But some people respond so emotionally to certain sounds that the word “hate” is appropriate. Misophonia is the “hatred of sound”, and it can be so debilitating that it significantly disrupts a person’s ability to live normally.
What is misophonia?
Misophonia is a reaction in which certain sounds trigger physiological or emotional responses that may seem inappropriate given the situation. Many with misophonia describe it as a severe response to a particular sound that “drives you nuts.” These sounds create a conditioned reflex in the person that associates them with a negative meaning. The reaction to the sound will be very fast and the person will react without even thinking of the meaning of the sound. To make matters worse, the family, friends, and co-workers of people with misophonia frequently trigger the most troublesome reactions. Emotional responses include:
- Feeling uncomfortable
- Having the urge to flee
- Disgust or irritation turning to anger
- Becoming verbally and/or physically aggressive with the person making the noise
- Purposefully avoiding people or objects causing trigger sounds
- Lashing out physically at people or objects making the noise
- Emotional distress
Those with misophonia also can experience physical reactions including:
- Muscle tightness
- Increased blood pressure and/or body temperature
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pressure throughout the body – particularly in the chest
What causes misophonia?
Misophonia is caused by over-activation of the nervous system, specifically the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. This action causes decreased sound tolerance which can negatively impact a person’s life. Misophonia can cause people to avoid many daily activities such as going to school or work. In severe cases, a person will avoid offensive sounds to the extent that they cannot leave their home or be with their family. Misophonia may be mistaken for severe anxiety, bipolarism, or obsessive-compulsive disorder as many doctors are unaware of this condition.
Common Auditory (Sound) Triggers:
- People eating (chewing, swallowing, talking with food in their mouth)
- People drinking (sipping, swallowing, slurping, saying “ah” after a drink, breathing after a drink)
- Other mouth sounds (Kissing, flossing, brushing teeth, lip popping)
- At the dinner table (Fork on a plate, fork scraping teeth, the clinking of glasses and plates)
- Vocal triggers (dry mouth, whispering, several people taking simultaneously, whistling, singing, humming)
- Work/school (Typing, mouse clicks, pencil on paper, pen clicking or tapping, page flipping, tapping on a desk)
- Breathing sounds (snoring, hiccups, sniffling, coughing, normal breathing, heaving breathing, nose whistle, hiccups, throat clearing)
Is there a cure?
Since misophonia is not a disease, there is technically no “cure”, but there is hope. Desensitization of the auditory system and reprogramming of conditioned reflexes is the only effective treatment for misophonia. Some patients with no damage to their auditory system can totally stop the misophonic reactions to sound post-treatment.