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Misophonia and Sensitivity to Sound

If you’ve noticed a change in your hearing or have any concerns about your hearing, book a free hearing health check our trained professional are happy to help.

What is Misophonia?

Misophonia is an extreme sensitivity to specific triggers that evoke strong negative emotions like anger or disgust. Although these trigger sounds may seem quiet to others, they can be disturbingly loud for individuals with misophonia. Approximately one in five people experience misophonia to some extent, with less than one percent having the most severe symptoms. Despite its prevalence, misophonia is not officially classified as a psychiatric or hearing disorder. It differs from hyperacusis, where everyday sounds seem excessively loud, and phonophobia, a fear of loud sounds. While auditory triggers are common, some may experience distress from visual triggers.

women putting gum in her mouth

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, the symptoms of misophonia are identified first in childhood or early adolescence. From anxiety and irritation to disgust and anger, people with misophonia may experience a range of negative reactions in response to their particular trigger sounds.
Sometimes, individuals with misophonia may display verbal or even physical aggression towards those making the trigger sound, although this is more common in children than in adults. There may also be involuntary physical symptoms caused by the nervous system, such as sweating, muscular tension and an increase in heart rate.

What triggers misophonia?

Even though each person with misophonia will have their own specific triggers, there are sounds which a lot of people with the disorder find extremely irritating. 
These sounds are frequently those which are made by other people. So, to someone with misophonia, some of the most annoying sounds in the world could be:

  • Chewing, slurping, or crunching
  • Knuckle cracking
  • Nail biting
  • Heavy breathing
  • Sniffling
  • Throat clearing
  • Scratching

Quite often, trigger sounds are also repetitive in nature, such as tapping on a keyboard, windscreen wipers and someone repeatedly clicking a ballpoint pen. 

What is the diagnosis?

At the moment, there is no such thing as a misophonia test. So one key aspect of diagnosing misophonia is to rule out more common hearing disorders, including age-related hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis, which is reduced tolerance to everyday sounds.

The symptoms of misophonia may also be the result of a number of medical conditions. They can also be a side effect associated with numerous types of medication. This is why, to rule out other causes of the symptoms, medical professionals may often conduct routine laboratory tests during initial evaluation.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals sometimes misdiagnose people with misophonia, mistaking its symptoms for a bipolar, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder.

women in therapy session

Misophonia and mental health

As those with misophonia often change their normal routine to steer clear of experiences that may trigger symptoms, they may refrain from socialising with family members or friends, and even avoid sleeping in the same room as a partner.  

This can lead to problems with relationships, at school or at work, which, in turn, could possibly induce mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

What treatments are available?

Health care providers generally try to help people cope with misophonia by recognising what the person is experiencing and working on coping strategies.

There is no known cure specifically for misophonia, there are a number of coping strategies which have been used with some apparent success. These include tinnitus retraining therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy and deconditioning, which involves matching a positive experience with the misophonia trigger. 

Another approach is to add background noise to the person’s environment, usually via fans, white noise generators or behind-the-ear devices.

Thankfully, research does tend to indicate that over 80% of people with misophonia experience significant relief from symptoms if they are treated.

In conclusion
While a hearing test will not reveal whether you have misophonia, it will help to rule out more prevalent hearing disorders. So, if you are experiencing adverse reactions to certain sounds, it may be a good idea to first book an appointment with one of our hearing specialists.