Diversity of Triggers

We also find there’s quite a diversity of triggers. Although there are common triggers such as mouth and breathing sounds, the list of triggers comprises almost every repeating noise. No one has all of these triggers; everyone has their own set of triggers. So even though there are many common trigger sounds, there is a lot of variation in the sounds from person to person.

The first trigger that you get is specific to a single person or thing that is part of the individual’s life in some way. It depends on the sounds you are hearing. There are also particular sounds such as bird chirps, crickets, pipes knocking, things that people say, oxygen system noise, and many more. There are general triggers that will affect many people popcorn, loud eating, gum popping (which seems to be a very common trigger), but you may also have triggers that are caused by a single person, at least that’s where they start.

Some people are triggered only when a certain individual makes a specific sound. For example, I was working with a fifteenyearold young man who triggered to the sound of his mom eating crunchy food. We had him face the wall. I popped a piece of Frito into my mouth. I crunched it. No response, nothing. His mom put a piece of Frito in her mouth and crunched it, and he said, “Ugh! That’s it!” For another person, it didn’t matter who made the sound. Any crunch triggered him.

I worked with a person whose trigger was her husband saying, “Uh.” This monosyllabic utterance didn’t trigger anyone else, and other people could make the same sound without it affecting her. It was her unique trigger. Another person triggered when her husband ate crunchy bread. We know of kids who trigger to a parent’s voice, but not to other voices. I know a man who started triggering in midlife when birds built their nest outside of his window. It seems like that would not be a big deal, but it was his bedroom window and they were mockingbirds, which sing twentyfour hours a day. He developed misophonia to those specific bird chirps.

Nonhuman sounds such as pipes knocking, clocks ticking, hair dryers, electric shavers, and such are also triggers for some, but not triggers for most people. Everybody has their own unique set of triggers. So although there’s commonality, there’s still uniqueness, and these particular triggers are based on your individual experience, the ones that you have heard, and are not based on an automatic biological time clock. It is based on your unique experiences with those sounds.

It seems we have many common triggers because we have fairly common experiences, such as eating together or being close enough to hear another person breathe. It is customary to eat together, during which time we hear others eating, and so many people develop triggers to eating sounds. If you have someone in your home with allergies, you hear lots of nasally breathing, so we have lots of people who develop triggers to breathing sounds. Since we have common life experiences, we develop some similar triggers, but also unique triggers.

I conducted a survey a while back and asked, “What was your first trigger?” I had 1078 responses. The table below shows their responses.

What was your first trigger? Responses of 1078 people.

Sounds of people eating – all forms of chewing,crunching 61.1%
Sounds made at the table – fork on plate, fork scraping teeth, etc. 2.8%
Sounds of people drinking – sipping, slurping, saying “ah” after a drink 2.9%
Other mouth sounds – sucking teeth, lip popping, kissing, flossing, 0.8%
Sounds associated with eating – opening chip bags, water bottle crinkling 3.8%
Breathing sounds – sniffling, snorting, nasally breathing, yawning 13.0%
Home sounds of people – voices/TV/music/bass through walls, door slamming, nail clipping, foot shuffling, flip flops, heavy footsteps, 2.2%
Work/school sounds – typing, mouse clicks, page flipping, pencil on paper, 2.2%
Vocal triggers – consonant sounds (S and P especially), lip pop, voice 5.3%
Singing, humming, whistling 1.6%
Animal sounds – dogs/cat grooming, dogs drinking, dogs barking, birds 1.4%
Electronic sounds – phone ringtones, key clicks, alert tones, beeps, etc. 0.4%
Home sounds of equipment – refrigerator running, hair dryers, electric shavers, ticking clocks, pipes knocking, lawnmowers, toilet flushing, etc. 1.8%
Other – Farm equipment, pumps, back-up beepers, traffic noise, beep of car locking, car door slamming 0.7%
Visual Triggers
Foot jiggling/movement 0.5%
Biting/picking nails 0.3%
Crossing legs 0.1%
Other Senses
Smells 0.1%
Being kissed 0.1%

A few people developed misophonia to a stimulus other than a sound a stimulus that was visual, olfactory (smell) or tactile. The great variation in the initial trigger indicates that for misophonia to develop, hearing or even seeing a stimulus is required. There are genetic factors, but it takes life experience for a trigger to develop. I was a bit surprised when I looked at this data. 71.5% are eating related sounds, 13.0% are breathing related sounds, and 16.5% are a wide variety of other sounds, visual, tactile, and olfactory stimuli very diverse indeed.