Hearing Concerns

Misophonia

Did you know that the literal meaning of misophonia is ‘hatred of sound’? This condition makes sufferers experience intense and highly involuntary reactions to certain sounds made by other people. These sounds are also referred to as trigger sounds. Individuals with misophonia are affected emotionally by common, everyday sounds, usually made by others. These sounds are usually ones that other people don’t really notice or pay attention to, such as yawning, chewing, or even breathing.

Little is still known about misophonia but it affects some worse than others, to the point of isolation and depression. Some patients suffer in silence because they feel ashamed of the symptoms and end up not mentioning them to their healthcare providers. In reality, misophonia is a real disorder and it is serious enough to compromise a person’s relationships, social life, and mental health.

Misophonia Triggers

Oral sounds

People with misophonia often observe that they are often triggered by oral sounds, specifically the noise someone makes while eating, breathing, or chewing. Other adverse sounds that can trigger misophonia include finger tapping, keyboard clacking, infant crying, or the sound of a car’s windshield wipers. Sounds produced by repetitive motions (fidgeting, jostling, or wiggling of the feet) can also prompt misophonia episodes.

Visual stimuli

Misophonia can also be a reaction to visual stimuli that is accompanied by sound. Researchers believe that individuals with misophonia may have issues with how the brain filters sounds. In fact, misophonia can be triggered by repetitive noises paired with visual stimuli. The repetitive action then exacerbates other auditory processing problems.

According to Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar, Newcastle University Research Fellow in the Biosciences Institute, their research on misophonia showed a similar pattern of communication between the motor and visual regions. “What surprised us was that we also found a similar pattern of communication between the visual and motor regions, which reflects that misophonia can also occur when triggered by something visual.”

Understanding Misophonia: What does misophonia feel like?

Misophonia is known as a disorder where certain sounds can trigger physiological or emotional responses that might be perceived as unreasonable given the circumstance. Individuals who are diagnosed with misophonia might describe the sound as something that can “drive you crazy.” Reactions to certain sounds can range from annoyance, anger, to panic and the need to escape from the source of the sound. Misophonia is also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

Misophonia Reactions

This disorder appears to range from mild to severe. Patients report a range of emotional and physiologic responses, with accompanying cognitions.

Mild misophonia reactions include feeling:

  • uncomfortable
  • anxious
  • having the urge to flee
  • disgusted

Severe misophonia might trigger the following:

  • anger
  • hatred
  • fear
  • panic
  • emotional distress

How can misophonia affect daily life?

Misophonia can greatly affect a person’s social life. In fact, this disorder is known to develop anticipatory anxiety in situations where trigger sounds may be present. Avoiding parties, restaurants, and other big social gatherings is a common behavior of people with misophonia. Over time, the condition can become sensitive to visual triggers. A misophonic episode can be triggered by something as simple as seeing something that is recognized to create or be the source of the adverse sound.

How common is misophonia?

This condition affects around 6% to 20% of the population. Patients with a severe form of misophonia can find themselves struggling or incapable of tolerating regular social situations at home, work, or in any other public place.

Is misophonia a mental disorder?

Misophonia does not belong in any list of contemporary psychiatric classification systems. Some researchers have argued that misophonia should be considered as a new mental disorder, falling within the spectrum of obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Is misophonia connected to trauma?

Misophonia is not directly connected to trauma. However, since trauma is known to trigger dysregulation in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), people who have experienced trauma are more likely to develop misophonia.

What causes misophonia?

While the exact age of the onset of this lifelong disorder is still unknown, data shows that patients report symptoms between the ages of 9 to 13. Misophonia seems to be more common with girls and the onset is usually sudden.

Up until now, doctors still can’t pinpoint the primary cause of misophonia. However, it has been established that misophonia is not a problem with the ears or with hearing. Misophonia is considered as part mental and part physiological, greatly linked to how sound affects the brain and triggers automatic responses in the body.

Is misophonia acquired or developed?

According to the Misophonia Institute, misophonia occurs more frequently in people who suffer from stress, anxiety or have tendencies towards compulsive behavior. This condition often develops in childhood, in response to sounds made by a parent or family member.

Is misophonia neurological or psychological?

Misophonia is best considered a neuropsychological disorder with psychological consequences. People with misophonia experience heightened autonomic nervous system (ANS) arousal paired with negative emotional reactivity in response to specific, pattern-based auditory triggers.

The Brain Science of Misophonia

As ongoing research and studies are conducted to further understand misophonia, researchers have recently discovered that a supersensitized brain connection is a common denominator in people who suffer from the disorder. The supersensitized brain is responsible for giving a person with misophonia extreme reaction to triggering sounds.

Researchers led by the Newcastle University team discovered that the increased connectivity in the brain located between the auditory cortex and the motor control areas involving the face, mouth, and throat has something to do with misophonia.

As published in the official website of New Castle University, lead author Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar, Newcastle University Research Fellow in the Biosciences Institute said: “Our findings indicate that for people with misophonia there is an abnormal communication between the auditory and motor brain regions – you could describe it as a ‘super sensitized connection’.

Diagnosing Misophonia

In the past, misophonia has been considered a disorder related to sound processing. Fortunately, new research studies have paved the way for a clearer understanding of this condition, which leads more to an abnormal type of communication or relationship between the auditory cortex, hearing center of the brain, and the areas of the ventral premotor complex responsible for the movement of the mouth, face, and throat.

Misophonia is quite tricky to diagnose especially because, in the initial stages of evaluation, the ears and hearing function are normal. This disorder can be mistaken for anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or bipolar disorder.

Recently, a breakthrough study revealed that misophonia is a brain-based disorder. Researchers discovered a disruption in the connectivity of the brain that processes both sound and fight or flight response. Based on recent studies, misophonia involves parts of the brain that interpret sounds.

How is misophonia treated?

While this condition can clearly affect one’s daily routine, there are several treatments and interventions to manage it. Misophonia treatment often involves a holistic and multidisciplinary approach, combining supportive counseling and sound therapy by audiologists. During supportive counseling, various coping strategies are explored.

Auditory distraction using hearing aids with white noise, earplugs, or headphones can help manage misophonia. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also shown success in improving functioning.

Hearing aids also play a role in misophonia treatment. Hearing devices can be programmed to produce a constant sound in the ears, like white noise. These sounds can help distract a person with misophonia from triggers and significantly reduce reactions.

A lifestyle change can help manage misophonia. Exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, and managing stress levels can greatly reduce episodes of misophonia. Earplugs and headsets can help tune out sounds.

Living with Misophonia

Without the right treatment, support, and intervention, living with misophonia can be really difficult. Below are some tips to help make living with misophonia more bearable:

Meditate

Finding peace through meditation can help control emotions. There are various meditation apps that can be used on the go to help be calmer and experience fewer misophonia episodes.

Use hearing aids or headphones

Since misophonia can be triggered by certain sounds, it’s best to always be prepared. Bringing hearing aids or headphones to mask the sounds can be really helpful. An audiologist can help a patient with misophonia in choosing a device and their preferred white noise to listen to.

Earplugs

If you’re doing some activities alone or want some me-time, earplugs can be your best friend. Choose earplugs that are powerful enough to mute external sounds so you don’t have to worry about encountering any triggers.

Finding a support group

Not many people can understand why someone can feel that much rage, discomfort, or anger while seeing or hearing a person yawning, chewing, breathing. Individuals with misophonia find comfort in the fact that they are not alone. There are people all over the world suffering from this condition, living with this condition, surviving day-to-day life with the hope that things will get better – and it will get better, with the right treatment plan and support from friends and family.

The Misophonia Association in the United States is based in California and Oregon. Learning about the condition can also help patients and their family members in staying up to date with new developments and coping strategies for misophonia. The International Misophonia Research Network Misophonia-Research.com is a reliable resource for people interested in learning more about the condition.

For those in the U.S., U.K. and Canada, misophoniainternational.com (in association with Duke University) provides free resources, such as newly-published articles, journals, handouts, and webinars.

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Are you ready to hear better?

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Not much may be known about misophonia but it’s important to know that you are not alone. There are people all over the world going through the same thing and all it takes is one step to get relief with the correct intervention.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might be suffering from misophonia, Fort Bend Hearing can help. We can conduct hearing tests and other diagnostics to rule out any hearing problem.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment!