Misophonia

Sometimes called “Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome,” misophonia is characterized by an outsized emotional reaction to specific types of sounds. Misophonia is not a problem with the ear, but with connections between the auditory processing and emotional centers of the brain. Most people with misophonia have normal hearing ability.
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Typically, the sounds that trigger the reaction are quiet, and frequently repetitive. People who suffer with misophonia often say the reaction is triggered by oral sounds like chewing, swallowing or breathing. Finger tapping, typing on a keyboard, fidgeting, and windshield wipers are also common triggers.

Triggers tend to be caused by someone else’s activity, not the activity of the person with misophonia. While others present may experience the sound as very quiet, the person with misophonia may experience it as very loud.

The reaction tends to come on rapidly, most often when the person is unable to escape the offending sound. Often, the trigger will occur at the dinner table, in a vehicle, or when the person is trying to sleep.

Frequently, when triggered, people with misophonia will believe that other people are intentionally making sounds to annoy them. Once the sound is removed from the environment and the person has returned to an unagitated state, they will realize that their initial thoughts were probably inaccurate.

Misophonia can appear as early as 9–13 years of age.

Misophonia tends to affect females more often than males, and is often a lifelong condition.

Reactions can range from mild to severe, and someone who starts out having mild reactions may progress to more severe ones if the condition is not treated.

Mild reactions might include:
  • Anxiety
  • Uncomfortability
  • Urge to flee
  • Disgust
Severe reactions might include:
  • Anger
  • Rage
  • Hatred
  • Panic

Over time, a person with misophonia may develop anxiety about going into situations where they might encounter the sounds that trigger them.

People have been known to avoid restaurants, or eating around other people. The reaction can also come to be caused by visual stimuli. For example, a silent video of a person eating might elicit the same reaction as the sound of chewing.

It is not known what causes misophonia, though it has been noted that those who suffer with it have higher amounts of myelin in their brains. Myelin is a fatty substance that surrounds neurons and maintains the efficiency of transmission of signals throughout the brain. It is not clear at present whether this increased amount of myelin may be a cause or effect of misophonia.

Because of the commonness of the triggers involved and the person’s sometimes involuntary response, misophonia can be a socially debilitating condition. At Suncoast Audiology, we help people with misophonia, focusing on coping strategies and exposure therapy.

There are several online support groups for those who suffer with misophonia. It can be helpful for people with misophonia to communicate regularly with others who share their symptoms.

If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be suffering from misophonia, arrange an appointment with us immediately.

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