What Is Misophonia?

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Misophonia is a severe sensitivity to specific soft sounds.  When a person hears the sounds, the person has a very strong emotional reaction such as hate, anger, anxiety, rage, and resentment.  People who suffer with misophonia generally report that they feel the person is intentionally making the sound, even though when they are calm and away from the sound, they acknowledge that the conclusion at that time was not accurate.

A person experiencing misophonia generally has excellent hearing. It is not a sensitivity to the volume of sound, but an emotional and physiological reaction to specific sounds.  At first it is generally the sounds of specific individuals that cause the reaction, but it usually spreads to the sounds made by others and to additional sounds.  The chewing sound of a friend may be annoying, while the chewing sound of a parent elicits (forces automatically) a strong reaction and is intolerable.

The misophonic reaction appears to be an involuntary reflex caused by the sound.  The sound directly activates the Autonomic Nervous System which is located in the brain stem and the Limbic System which is associated with emotion.  This  is a direct connection between the sound and a reflex reaction.  Think of the sound as causing the same reaction as a hard poke in the ribs with a stick.

Behavior science explains this physiological reaction as a “respondent” or “reflex” behavior that has been acquired or developed by pairing the sound with a distressed (stress, anxiety, etc.)  physiological condition.  When these two things happen at the same time (distress and the sound), it creates neurological wiring in the brain that causes the misophonia reaction when the sound is heard again. I call this an acquired reflex because it is not an innate or inborn reaction (did not exist at birth).  It is a reflex because it is a direct connection from a sense (hearing) to the Autonomic Nervous System and the Lymbic System.

Misophonia seems to occur more frequently in a person with a higher level of anxiety, stress, or compulsive behavior.  The reaction often develops first to a parent or family member where the person has a high level of anxiety or distress (physiological state of distress) and they repeatedly hear the sound.  It also seems to happen when a person cannot escape from the sound, such as at the dinner table,  in a car, or even laying in bed.

With most sounds, the sound is taken into the brain and then the person makes a thoughtful response.  The person considers the meaning of the sound and then responds.  This is called a “high road” response. (It goes through the higher part of the brain before the person reacts.)  For example, a person says to you, “I hate you.”  You have to first think about the words and the meaning.  You then respond based on the meaning.  In this case, if words are a reply to “Your feet stink,” then you know it is a joking or name calling contest, and you don’t have a negative emotional response.  If you perceive the person is serious and the person is important to you, then you may have a strong, negative emotional response, such as crying.

Once the misophonic response is established for one sound, other sounds seem to be added over time.  Because of this, those with misophonia often have a number of sounds that cause the reflex reaction, and it may impact many aspects of their lives.  Without treatment, the prognosis for misophonia is grim.  The misophonic responses usually get worse and worse, and the negative impact on the person’s life gets progressively greater.

But…  There is reason for hope.  Tom Dozier has developed a breakthrough treatment method that has drastically reduced the misophonic responses in the first few patients.  To date, the reactions have not been completely eliminated, but they have been drastically reduced.  This new method of treatment appears to be a restoration of health for about 50% of patients, such that misophonia does not have a debilitating effect on the person and their life.

For more information this new treatment methods, see the page on New Treatment for Misophonia or contact a treatment provide (see Treatment Providers page).

 

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11 Responses to What Is Misophonia?
  1. Finally, I have an answer. I was told to just brush it off. But this is a real thing.

    Thank you…

  2. Wow… theres a name for this!! Everyone tells me im over reacting… I flip out on my husband if he dont properly put his watches away because the ticking drives me nuts, chewing with the mouth open… yea thats the worst… i feel bad all the time kids will be kids but the noises they choose to do, and I know they arn’t doing them on purpose but it sure feels that way… esp this one 6yr old I watch!

  3. What is the difference between misophonia, hyperacusis and tinnitus?

  4. What is the difference between misophonia and hyperacusis and tinnitus?

  5. I had no idea this was actually a “disorder”. Me, my two kids and my sister all have this issue. I cannot stand the sound of people crunching, smacking, slurping or loud sharp noises. I just thought, over all these years, that I was overly sensitive or had extremely sensitive hearing. Over the weekend my son said, “you know it’s an actual disorder right? It’s called mesophena”, so I looked it up today and found Misophonia. I can’t believe I’m 53 and this is the first I’ve heard of it. So happy to know now……..maybe I can help myself and those around me who deal with this daily.

  6. I’ve been annoyed, as you could say, by sounds for several years. I never knew why and I usually just walk away, or put in headphones and listen to music loud enough so I can’t hear anything besides the music. I’m a high school student and I’m in a program for Computer Networking, with a lab full of computers. Everyone uses the keyboard and mouse but the clicking of the mice drive me crazy! and it’s a huge distraction in school, especially when I’m taking a test and I’m not allowed to listen to music. I can’t stand people eating crunchy things like chips or slurping. My boyfriend even gets frustrated with me sometimes because I get mad about things that are just normal daily things for him. It effects everyone in my life other than just me. My anger and frustration is uncontrollable. I’m glad I looked into it and found out that it’s an actual “abnormality”. I hope I can talked to my doctor and see if I can get any type of treatment. I dislike that fact that sounds bother me just as much as the sounds themselves do.

    • First, if you are in the USA, you can use headphones during a test, or take the test in a separate room. You need a 504 Plan, which specifies accommodations for your learning disability. Misophonia is a learning disability because you cannot concentrate when you are triggered. The 504 Plan will also state in-class accommodations, such as hearing headphones and listening to white noise. That way, you can hear words, but ignore the triggers.

      To get a 504 Plan, you probably need a diagnosis of misophonia. Anyone on the Treatment Provider page can diagnose you.

      You should find out if your doctor knows about misophonia before the visit. If not, find a different doctor. There is no medical treatment for misophonia, and so your doctor cannot provide much help. See Treatment Providers on this website for some suggestions.

  7. Do you expose patients to sounds?

    • Chris,

      The answer is no and yes. No – I do not expose the person to the real, full, live sound. Yes – I expose them to a recorded, reduced length, reduced volume, “patient in control” sound.

      It is like an allergy treatment. Is the person exposed to the allergen – Yes. Is the person exposed to the full allergen and in a way that creates the typical reaction – No.

      On a scale of 0-5, where 5 is the real world experience, and 0 is something that does not trigger the person, with my treatment, the target is to keep the experience at a level of 1 or less.

      Take care,
      >tom<

  8. I am 47, I have Misophonia. In college, my triggers to my first roommate reach a point, where I began throwing things at him. I had always assumed, everyone heard my triggers, until my 17 year old daughter, diagnosed herself by reading online. I chose to laugh about it, I am 47 and I am able to realize this is now in my head, much like road rage, the fear of flying or other anxiety based disorders. I still have triggers, but for the most part my anger and anxiety tied to the triggers is greatly decreased. And I will admit, I do at times need to walk away. Days when I am extremely stressed from work or from raising kids. Those type of days, I have many more triggers and they are much stronger, than on days when I am relaxed.

    My daughter thou chose to hide from the noise. It first began with headphones then not joining in family gatherings, now she full out hides in her room most of the time. He depression and anxiety have only increased. But she continues to read web pages that tell her to put on headphones and hide. Misophonia is a mental illness not a physical superman sound disease. She does not have hearing stronger than anyone else, actually she is getting near deaf because of the headphones. If a person is afraid to face the world, do we tell them continue hiding in your home, that is the cure? So why do so many misophonia web pages encourage us to hide from our mental illness by purchasing headphones and white noise makers.

    Personally I started listening to music at dinner, when my wife and I first had kids. Holy cow do kids eating bug me, so I began listening to music, and what do you know? I now cannot eat with anyone without listening to music. The mental illness community needs to recognize that this disorder is a mental illness not physical and begin treating it as a mental illness.

    If a man wants to over come his fear of flying, a therapist would work towards eventually getting him on the plane and flying. So if a person develops anxiety from odd sounds while people eat, and they want to be a normal functioning member of society, they should work towards eating with their kids and no music playing.

    • You are correct that music or white noise at the dinner table is not a fix, but it provides temporary relief. It allows you to eat together.

      This is why I have been researching and testing the Neural Repatterning Technique. This treatment method reduces the reflex reaction to the sound, and supports what you are recommending… eventually getting used to the trigger sounds and being able to eat together with no music.

      For most people, experiencing strong trigger sounds only makes the misophonia worse. It is like being forced onto an airplane and having a panic attack until you are allowed to get off. That doesn’t make it better.


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