If you feel disgusted to the point of rage when you hear the sound of chewing, swallowing, breathing, throat-clearing and other common “people” noises, you’re not alone. You’re also not crazy. Misophonia is a sound sensitivity disorder, which makes certain noises intolerable to the sufferer. Although this condition is primarily neurological, the experience of these sounds can cause psychological distress. The term misophonia was developed by Pawel and Margaret Jastreboff, American neuroscientists. Literally translated, it means “hatred of sounds.”
Onset of Misophonia
This condition usually develops when a child is just entering into his or her tween years, although it can develop earlier in life. The affected child will often feel a frightening and uncontrollable urge either to strike the person making the noises or run away with hands over their ears. Alternatively, some will mimic the sounds of chewing in an attempt to cover up the noise or to communicate in a nonverbal way how horrible the sound is to them. This reaction is called ‘echolalia’ and is also quite common among those on the autistic spectrum.
One of the primary difficulties of living with this disorder is others’ reactions. Those who do not have any hypersensitivity to sound simply cannot imagine how their chewing and swallowing noises can be so intolerable to another person. Often, protests from the sufferer are misinterpreted as passive-aggressive personal attacks or simply not believed at all.
What You Can Do
Although misophonia is thought of as a relatively rare disorder, those with other neurological and sensory processing disorders often struggle with this condition. Although there is no cure for sound sensitivity, there are various techniques as well as some dietary and lifestyle modifications that can help dial back the symptoms of misophonia so it does not interfere as much with everyday life. We’ll take a look into what these various techniques are in next month’s issue. Until then, remember to be tolerant of those who might suffer from misophonia, and try to have your own hearing checked periodically by a qualified hearing healthcare professional.