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Understanding Misophonia

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Do you hate certain sounds?

Do you hate certain sounds?

What Is Misophonia?

I recently wrote an article about sounds that can irritate many of our ears. However, Misophonia is an anxiety disorder found most often in female children, where people experience disgust and sometimes intense anger when they hear certain sounds. Good examples of possible annoying sounds are chewing, lip-smacking, pen clicking or some speech that will cause this intense reaction. School-age children eating with siblings may experience this reaction. This is much different than those of us who don’t like loud music coming from a nearby car.

Misophonia literally means “hatred of sound”, which is a negative emotional reaction, also referred to as soft sound sensitivity symptom, select sound sensitivity syndrome, decreased sound tolerance, and sound-rage and patients showed greater physiological signs of stress (increased heart rate and sweat).

Thankfully this problem is somewhat rare, but scientists estimate that up to 20% of people may have some degree of misophonia. Misophonia is a real disorder, which may compromise socializing, functioning or even mental health. This disorder typically appears most often at about age 12.

Misophonia Diagnosis

Misophonia develops as a physical reflex that develops through classical conditioning to a particular noise or noises, which is called a Misophonia trigger. This conditioned response to the trigger may be irritation, anger and stress. However, there is currently no agreement on any specific protocol to diagnose this disorder, although there is ongoing research.

Audiological assessment is complicated. It includes pure tone thresholds and loudness discomfort levels (LDL). Some patients with misophonia have hearing loss, but others have normal hearing. As there is no precise method as to how to diagnose patients it is probable that variations will occur.

Misophonia And The Science of Horrible Sounds

Research

The Baylor College of Medicine researchers are attempting to understand the perceptions and preferences in treatment approaches. This study requires participants to be eighteen years or older who have Misophonia or a parent of a child with Misophonia.

According to Kumar et al, 2014; Jager et al 2020, most triggers for Misophonia are human-generated eating and chewing sounds that involve orofacial actions.

A Dozier, 2015, study found that Misophonia patients can become distressed even watching silent videos or images of people chewing and eating.

A Harvard study has used whole-brain MRIs to map the participants’ brain, and they have found people with Misophonia have higher amounts of myelination in the anterior insular cortex (AIC) portion of the brain. The AIC has more activity than other areas of the brain when the person hears trigger sounds. The myelin is a fatty substance, which wraps around nerve cells to provide electrical insulation, like the insulation found on a wire. It is not known if the extra myelin is the cause or the effect of Misophonia.

“Winter is on my head, but eternal spring is in my heart.”

– Victor Hugo

Treatment

There are Misophonia clinics throughout the world where treatments occur, as it can be treated when the sufferer acknowledges the problem. Hearing aid devices are sometimes used.

At this time there are no studies that have explored pharmaceutical options for treatments.

Final Thoughts

Misophonia is obviously a very difficult disorder for an individual and for other family members. It can lead to social isolation and suicide or suicide attempts. There are online support groups that may help with the isolation. More research is necessary.

One person posted the following statement on the internet: “People don't understand that this literally controls your life. The frustration, the anger and aggressive feelings, the constant adrenaline because you're alert and afraid that the sounds will appear. My family never understood and I've always felt lonely”

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Pamela Oglesby