Tag Archives: misophonia treatment

Experiments in ‘trigger taming’ and new Misophonia triggers

It has been several months since I started working on an experimental treatment to tackle my Misophonia. The treatment has been hit-and-miss, with my reaction to some trigger noises diminishing. For other trigger noises, the treatment has not been effective so far.

Last fall, I was contacted by behavioral scientist Tom Dozier, who offered me the treatment free of charge, assuming I would chronicle my journey on this blog. I told him I would be giving an honest account of how the treatment worked.

Dozier developed a smart phone app called the Trigger Tamer that allows patients to record the sounds that trigger them, and then expose themselves to just a few seconds of the sound at a time, as to only trigger themselves a small amount. After experiencing the minor Misophonia reaction, they work to immediately calm themselves.

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The premise of the app is that the reaction people with Misophonia have is actually an unwanted reflex that has somehow been programmed in a primal part of our brain, the medulla oblongata. This treatment method also assumes that people with Misophonia experience a physical reaction to trigger sounds in addition to the emotional response. This physical response could be a jerking of the shoulders, a tightening of the chest, a clenching of other muscles, or any other physical reaction.

For the Trigger Tamer app to work effectively, a patient must identify their physical responses to Misophonia sounds, then find a way to extinguish those physical responses in a matter of a couple of seconds. If the physical response is a tightening of shoulder muscles, for example, then the patient could have someone massage their shoulders immediately after they are triggered by a noise, or they could use muscle relaxation techniques to relax their shoulders by themselves.

That’s how this treatment works. A patient listens to a snippet of their trigger sound on the app until they experience a mild amount of that physical trigger, then they immediately perform the act (such as muscle relaxation) that will wipe out that physical reaction.This process retrains the brain to stop reacting negatively to trigger sounds, according to Dozier.

Dozier has estimated that patients using this method for about 30 minutes a day can see their triggers diminish in a matter of weeks. The app isn’t a huge investment (about $40), but Dozier prefers patients using the app schedule regular check-in appointments with him.

Did this treatment work for me? Yes and no.

One of the biggest challenges for me is that my physical reaction to sounds is sexual arousal, and not in a good way. Hearing a trigger sound doesn’t make me want to have sex; it makes me feel sexually aroused and angry at the same time. It’s very confusing and upsetting.

I had to experiment a lot to find something that could make my sexual arousal go away quickly. I tried making myself sad, muscle tightening and muscle relaxation, but those didn’t work. I tried having a partner tickle me aggressively. That seemed to work, but it wasn’t very practical, or enjoyable. I tried yoga stretches, and some of them worked, particularly stretching out my hips (half-lotus and head-of-knee poses).

A couple times a week, I began using hip stretches while listening to the Trigger Tamer.

The first trigger sound I tried to tackle was the sound of a spoon clanking on a bowl. I listened to one particular sound and over time, I stopped triggering to that one specific sound of a spoon hitting a bowl. But, it only helped me slightly out in the real world. I think that’s because there are several different types of clanking and scraping noises that trigger me when I hear someone eat out of a bowl, and for this treatment to truly work, I would have to record each of those many sounds and work with them one at a time with the app.

I gave up on that for a while and decided to take on the sound of typing, which was really starting to eat at me while I was at work. I had serious concerns that I would have to quit my job because I’m surrounded at work by people typing constantly. This is a trigger I developed just in the past year or two, and I wanted to nip it in the bud. I worked with a 10-second recording of a person typing aggressively. At first I listened to a second or two at a time, but eventually was able to listen to the whole 10 seconds without triggering. It wasn’t long before I could listen to the recording for a half hour without triggering.

The typing sounds at work are now manageable. I can go days and weeks without being triggered, and if the Misophonia reaction begins to crop up again, I do a quick stretch at my desk to eliminate the trigger feeling as fast as I can. That seems to send my Misophonia reaction into dormancy for a while longer.

snoring1During the past few months, I have developed two new triggers: the sound of snoring, and feeling my partner breathing when we are lying in bed. This means we no longer sleep in the same bed, and I have to sleep in another room while listening to pink noise, because my partner’s snoring sounds reverberate throughout our home.

I’ve been working with my partner to have him tickle me while we are lying down to fight the reaction I have to feeling my partner breathe. That remains a work in progress.

I recorded the snoring sounds and am now able to listen to the recording without being triggered, but for some reason that hasn’t made it any easier for me when I hear the actual sounds of my partner snoring. Dozier suggested that when I use the Trigger Tamer I try to make the recording seem more real, by lying down while listening to the recording and really imagining my partner snoring. That should trigger me more and allow me to fight that Misophonia reaction more effectively.

It’s a time-consuming treatment and can be difficult to stick to, especially if you need another person to help you wipe out your trigger responses while using the Trigger Tamer app.

Since first writing about this treatment, I’ve heard a couple of concerns from readers of this blog. They include:

Don’t you know exposure therapy doesn’t work?

Yes, traditional exposure therapy hasn’t worked to combat my Misophonia. In this case, though, trigger taming “exposes” patients to a mild trigger and allows them to kill a small physical reaction to the trigger before they become too distressed. With traditional exposure therapy, the goal is to distress the patient and allow them to get used to those feelings of distress until their anxiety eventually diminishes and they get used to the object they are being exposed to. That type of traditional exposure therapy has not been shown to help Misophonia patients whatsoever, and can actually be a very horrible experience.

There’s no good evidence that the Misophonia treatments out there work, and we should be cautious of so-called experts trying to sell us things to fight Misophonia.

I completely agree with this statement. Because Misophonia research is still in its infancy, it’s impossible to have reliable, hard data the prove which treatments work. It’s also possible that something could work for one Misophonia sufferer but not another. We’re still very much in an experimental phase, and everyone should proceed with caution.

The bottom line: Only you can decide when trying an experimental treatment for your Misophonia is worth it.

Next Misophonia conference is mid-October in Florida

The second-ever Misophonia Association conference will be in Orlando, Florida this year, and organizers say it will likely take place October 10-11.

I can’t attend this year, but I had the privilege of going to the first-ever Misophonia Association conference last year in Portland. I found it extremely beneficial to learn from the specialists of varying backgrounds about what they think might be causing Misophonia and how they are helping patients find relief.

Of course, nobody has all the answers about Misophonia, and there is no silver-bullet cure. But it’s nice to see the commitment of some specialists who are trying to help Misophonia patients. It also was a very supportive environment, and it was pretty amazing to meet and talk to other people with the condition.

Here are the details about this year’s conference, including a registration page. I believe the registration fee is $125 per person, but that the conference is free for ages 16 and younger.

Also, here’s the post I wrote about last year’s conference. It looks like this year’s lineup of speakers will be similar to those who spoke last year.

Useful information on Misophonia, from the Portland conference

I attended the first-ever conference for people with Misophonia about a week ago in Portland, Ore., and I’m still digesting a lot of what I learned. Here’s a brief list of some of the takeaways from the conference:

Misophonia.com has a letter to physicians that you can print out and bring with you to the doctor. That could help a lot and save you some of the grief of having to explain your condition every time you see a new doctor. There’s also a letter you can use as a template for talking about misophonia with family and friends.

It is helpful for people with misophonia to make their home environment as inviting as possible. Flood the rooms in your home with sounds that you enjoy, which will help mask your triggers. You could play music or run a fan or a white noise generator, for example.

Family members living under the same roof could benefit from writing a contract with their family member who has misophonia. For example, a parent could write in the contract that they will try to stop making certain trigger noises around their child (no gum chewing in the car), and that it is OK for their child to get up from the table during dinner. The child could agree in the contract to refrain from using abusive language toward the source of a trigger, and to be up front when a sound is triggering him or her.

Misophonia trigger sounds are not something a person can get used to through typical exposure methods. In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that trying to endure trigger noises can make the misophonia worse and lead to new triggers.

Ear plugs can make misophonia worse. They cause your ears to work harder at trying to hear the sounds around you, and when the ear plugs are taken out, your hearing could be even stronger than before. This can lead to noticing more soft sounds and developing new triggers. Playing white noise or music through headphones or ear buds is seen as a better alternative because it floods the ear with sounds to digest rather than leaving the ear in search of sounds.

Functional MRI

Functional MRI

Are you a medical researcher? Help! People with misophonia and their families are desperate for someone to study the brains of people with misophonia. A functional MRI would be most useful to us at this point, because we’d like to know what parts of our brains are firing when we experience a trigger. Blood tests also would help determine whether the condition is genetic. There is plenty of anecdotal information to suggest that it could be.

People with misophonia tend to also be highly sensitive people. People with this personality trait tend to pick up on subtleties more easily and can easily become overwhelmed by events around them. Here’s a test you can take to determine whether you have the highly sensitive personality trait.  People with misophonia also tend to have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies, but not necessarily have OCD.

The American Psychiatric Associations’ fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (called the MSD-5) does not include a listing for misophonia, unfortunately.  However, some misophonia patients are starting to use the ICD-9-CM diagnosis code 388.42 for medical reimbursement claims. It’s the same code used for a similar audiological condition called hyperacusis.

Misophonia is currently considered an “orphan disorder,” meaning there are fewer than 200,000 identified cases of misophonia. That could certainly change as more people come forward to seek help for the condition.

People with misophonia find that their reactions to trigger sounds are worse when they happen to be stressed out, tired, hungry or hormonal. Reducing life stresses can help make things easier for people with misophonia, but it won’t eliminate misophonia. It’s also helpful to try to think positively about the person making the noise that is triggering you, though it won’t make your misophonia stop.

An audiologist working for many years with misophonia patients said her patients tend to be intelligent people who were good students in school. Those attending the conference last month in Portland seemed to reflect that trend. They were articulate and many had advanced degrees and successful careers. At the same time, many of them had left those successful careers because their work environment had become unbearable.

I found that final point particularly troubling because it suggests that there are qualified members of the workforce in our society who are not able to use their talents and give back to their communities because of this disorder. Finding a solution for misophonia and making sure workplaces are willing to accommodate people with this condition could go a long way, and not just for those who have misophonia.

The speakers at the conference were all video recorded. From what I could gather, the videos will be made available soon, and the Misophonia Association may charge money for the videos to raise funds for the association. Watch this website for more information.

Starting an experimental misophonia treatment that works with the body’s reflexes

I’m heading off in a new direction when it comes to seeking help for my misophonia, and I have no idea whether it will work.

I was recently contacted by a behavioral scientist who offered to try an experimental treatment on me, free of charge. Since I’ll try almost anything to get rid of my misophonia (that I can afford), I accepted the offer.

The behavioral scientist’s name is Tom Dozier, and here’s a link to his website for more information. Basically, his treatment focuses on the reflexes made in our medulla oblongata — Dozier calls it our “Lizard Brain” — which is the lower part of the brain stem. It controls basic human reflexes, such as blinking when you’re about to get hit in the face.

Plugging your ears during a loud noise can be a reflex for some people. So can blinking if a person thinks they are about to be struck in the face.

Plugging your ears during a loud noise can be a reflex for some people. So can blinking if a person thinks they are about to be struck in the face.

In one study on reflexes, for example, babies were exposed often to the smell of vanilla while they were in a calm state. Then, when they were crying, those same babies were exposed to the vanilla smell again, and it calmed them, because their brains had been trained to associate that smell with a calm state. Another more famous example is the Pavlov experiment. The scientist in that study rang a bell every time his dog was about to be fed, and after a while, just ringing the bell when no food was present made the dog salivate. The dog’s reflex had been retrained.

How does all of this apply to misophonia? Dozier’s theory is that misophonia happens when our reflexes are retrained in a negative way. Maybe you had high anxiety as a child, and while you were experiencing that stress, you were at the dinner table with your family, exposed to the sounds of them chomping or slurping down their meals. After a while, just hearing your family’s chewing noises began to trigger those feelings of stress and anxiety, and whatever physical reflex your body goes through when you hear the trigger. That could be a tensing of the shoulders, or a tightening of the chest muscles, for example.

In Dozier’s treatment, he tackles the physical reflexes his patients experience while hearing a trigger. He tries to interrupt the physical reflex right when it happens, to retrain that reflex. He exposes the patient to an audio snippet of a trigger noise, trying to trigger the patient only slightly. If that patient experiences a tensing of the shoulders, for example, then a family member could be on hand to immediately massage the shoulders after the trigger noise. Then, the “lizard brain” will stop associating the noise with anxiety, rage or fear and start associating the noise with the feelings one has during the shoulder massage, in theory.

According to Dozier, his experimental treatment has been successful with about 50 to 75 percent of his patients, but he’s only worked with about a dozen people. The treatment takes a while, because he works with one trigger sound at a time. I’m starting with the sound of a metal spoon hitting a ceramic bowl, but I have many, many more triggers than that.

So far, I’ve only had two sessions. Personally, I think I will have a more difficult time with this treatment method because my reflex response to misophonia triggers are mostly emotional. The only physical reflex I have when I experience a trigger sound is unwanted sexual arousal. I would have to figure out how to stop that reflex quickly in its tracks in order for the treatment to work.

For full disclosure, I think one of the reasons Dozier offered me free treatment is because he hopes I blog about my experiences here. I told him I probably would, and we have an understanding that I will be truthful and write whatever I want about my experience.

Dozier has a webinar you can watch for more information about his treatment. It takes a while to download, and you also have to download a software component to be able to view the webinar. If you don’t want to download the webinar on Dozier’s website, here is another webinar I found on youtube, but this one looks like it was done before Dozier started working with many of his misophonia patients.

Other treatment options

While we’re on the topic of treatments, a lot has been developing in our misophonia community. Please check out the Misophonia UK website’s list of treatments and coping strategies that have been helpful to some misophonia patients.

Also, there’s been quite a bit of buzz about a practice called neurofeedback, which some people say they are using with great success. I was interested in trying this technique, but honestly, it’s too expensive for me. I’ll probably wait to see whether more people find it useful before I decide to go down that path. But, if you’re interested, here’s a link to one practitioner’s website. From what I’ve read, she’s been using neurofeedback to treat several misophonia patients.

Misophonia experts on hand at Portland conference Oct. 25-26

Audiologists and other specialists who have been working with misophonia patients will be on hand to talk about the condition Oct. 25-26 at the First Congregational United Church in downtown Portland, Ore. As far as I know, it’s the first-ever misophonia conference, and it sounds like a variety of treatment ideas will be discussed.

To learn more about the event or how to register, go to the Misophonia Association’s website (click here).

The conference costs $125 for both days if you register in advance, and $150 at the door (there are discounts for kids and significant others). The organizers also hope to record at least some of the speaking panels so video can be available to people who could not attend the conference.

I’m trying to adjust my schedule so I can make it to the conference. I’d love to be able to put what I learn there on this blog.

Therapy for misophonia will be a work in progress

I finally got set up with a therapist to talk about some coping strategies for misophonia. This therapist does not specialize in misophonia; in fact she hadn’t even heard about it until I stepped into her office on the morning of my appointment.

She gave me the same puzzled look my primary care doctor had given me, but being a therapist, she was respectful and willing to learn more. I gave her a list of articles to read up on the topic, the New York Times article in particular (one reason why coverage of misophonia is so important).

During our appointment, she explained cognitive behavioral therapy. Essentially, it’s the idea that situations outside of our control can impact our thoughts and our emotions and ultimately our behaviors. But if we try to recognize negative thoughts and interrupt them, then we can replace bad thoughts with good ones and start to get a grip on our emotions and behaviors that are typically caused by an unpleasant situation. Please understand, this type of therapy is commonly used for anxiety and depression, and it’s use to treat misophonia is experimental only. As far as I know, it hasn’t cured a single person. It’s strictly a way to make it a little bit easier to cope.

This is the typical CBT model. It’s not a perfect match for misophonia, because hearing a trigger seems to cause an emotion (fight or flight) before there’s time to have any thought about the situation. But the hope is that it can still be used to address the negative thoughts that crop up during a trigger situation.

At the end of that initial appointment, my therapist gave me an assignment: write down my thoughts every time I hear a trigger sound. What am I actually thinking? I had never done this before, and I honestly didn’t want to face the reality of it because my thoughts had become so awful. I came up with a system of texting myself my thoughts while I was at work, and recording them one a piece of paper once I got home.

I found brief relief initially. A coworker would pop in a piece of gum for the fifth time that day, and I would become irate, but then I would have to stop. And pay attention to my thoughts. It interrupted my anger for a bit, maybe a few seconds. It didn’t make the problem go away, and eventually my physiological responses to the sound would, nonetheless, cause a wave of panic, disgust and contempt to rise up from within. In the earplugs would go. Or I’d make a trip to the bathroom to give myself a break from the sound.

My thoughts that I recorded made me feel completely ashamed and disappointed with myself. The “C” word used toward a woman I find to be quite pleasant. Complete revulsion. Words like “gross,” “disgusting,” and “sick” would pop into my mind. Feelings of self pity: “Again?” “Of course she’s going to eat that apple now, at the worst possible time.” “Why is this happening to me?!”

I returned several weeks later to the therapist (my health care provider is overloaded with mental health patients, so therapy appointments are hard to come by). I shared my recorded thoughts with her. She said we would need to arm me with an arsenal of strategies I can use every time I encounter a trigger noise. Escaping is working for me with the ear plugs, as well as getting up to leave a situation when I can. Are there ways I could distract myself when I hear a trigger?

If I need to sit at my desk and talk on the phone and a trigger noise begins, are there ways I can adjust to make things at least a little better? Maybe put an ear plug in the ear I’m not using?

Another interesting suggestion the therapist had was to replace the negative thoughts I have in response to a trigger with a positive thought that I know to be true. For example, people use this cognitive behavioral technique if they have problems with road rage. Instead of blowing up when someone displays horrible driving techniques, which might be true, try to replace it with something like: “Everyone does the best they can.” Or: “This too shall pass.” The trick is that it has to be something that is true to you, and also positive.

When I get triggered at work, I’ve been trying to focus on the person and the traits I like about them rather than on the noise they are making. I try to think things like: “So-and-so is a nice person. He is not trying to hurt me. He doesn’t know any better.” I’ve also been trying to use: “This noise cannot harm me. I am not in danger. My body is functioning just fine and I am going to be OK.” I then try to take a mental inventory of the different parts of my body, noting that my arms are OK, my legs are not hurt, my torso is just fine, my head doesn’t hurt, etc.

The therapist also suggested I get familiar with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and yoga, and do all the other basics such as make sure I’m eating right and getting enough sleep.

Have any of these methods truly helped so far? Not really. It helps a tiny bit in the sense that I feel more empowered against my misophonia. I have named the enemy, and I have some allies who want to help me fight it. But in another sense I remain powerless. I cannot think my way out of getting triggered. I can attempt to rationalize with the fight or flight instinct that has taken control of my brain.

Perhaps these are coping skills that need to be strengthened over time, so I’ll keep at them to see if things get any better, and I’ll try to do a better job of keeping everyone updated. If you’ve come across a good coping strategy, please share it in the comments section below.

My next appointment is in a little more than a week with a new therapist, because unfortunately my other therapist got transferred somewhere else. I imagine that meeting won’t be too productive, because I’ll be explaining misophonia again to someone new.

Medical field: get with the program on misophonia

I recently went to my primary care doctor to get a referral to a cognitive behavioral therapist. We did the usual listen to my heart thing, blood pressure and temperature checks, etc. Then I got to the uncomfortable part of telling her that I need her to refer me to a therapist.

I’ve been to therapy before. Depression. Anxiety. Stuff like that. She asked me all about those and ruled out that I did not have depression at the moment, but I do have generalized anxiety. Then I started: “I, uh, also have this thing. This thing where I get really freaked out when I hear certain sounds. Like, I panic. It’s called misophonia?”

Blank stare. The chirping of crickets.

Me again: “It’s a real thing. There’s been a lot of news about it lately. And I know I’ve had it for years…”

At this point, my mind is racing and flooding with self doubt. I see through my doctor’s puzzled look that she is trying to decide whether I’m some sort of hypochondriac who thinks I have every disorder under the sun.  The doctor asks a question: So, really loud noises hurt your ears?

No, it’s soft sounds, like the sound of people eating and chewing.

At this stage in the appointment, I think she just gives up and tells me how to get in touch with the therapist. She also tells me a bunch of stuff about anxiety that I already know.

My doctor belongs to a reputable health care network, and the company is really great about giving me printouts each time I go to the doctor. For example, the printed out information I got about anxiety went on for a couple of pages. A definition of anxiety, the symptoms and the  many ways to deal with it.

Misophonia must not exist in their system. I’m not surprised, because the condition is not well known, but that didn’t make the situation any less frustrating. Once I saw press coverage on misophonia, I got my hopes up. I wanted information about this to explode overnight. It’s been in the news — can’t all doctors know about it already? I know, I know. I’m being completely unrealistic.

Change is slow, and it takes the commitment of many people. So, I think I’ll try to do my part and write a letter to my health care provider to see if they will consider researching misophonia and providing information about it to everyone who works for them.

I’m curious if anyone reading this has had a good experience talking about misophonia with a health care professional? Did I just get a dud of a doctor? Are others in the know? How have you approached talking to your doctor or therapist about misophonia, and how were you received?

I have my therapy appointment soon, and I’ll probably have to get my therapist in touch with the misophonia specialist I saw earlier, just to make sure we’re all on the same page. Once again, I’ll keep you posted…

Cognitive behavioral therapy, white noise generators used as defenses against misophonia

I finally went to my misophonia appointment, where I received some good news, and some bad news. Let’s have the good news first. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and this was my first time seeking help for misophonia.

Although misophonia is currently incurable, I learned about cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as a new technology I wasn’t aware of for blocking trigger noises. Apparently, people with misophonia generally do about 12 visits with a therapist to go through the CBT, which helps them develop coping strategies for dealing with trigger sounds.

I could definitely use that. The bonus is that CBT can be done with any therapist, as long as they get educated about misophonia as they are working with you.

I have a doctor appointment with my primary care physician this week, and I plan to ask her to refer me to a good cognitive behavioral therapist so I can try to start that. I haven’t checked with my health insurer to see how much of that therapy would be covered, though. That might be an issue for me if it costs too much.

This resembles the in-ear white noise generator I saw during my appointment with a misophonia specialist.

Then there’s the bad news. Sort of. I also learned about in-ear white noise generators. They were pretty amazing. They are like hearing aids, but instead of helping you hear, they help you NOT hear your trigger noises. They emit white noise into your ear, which helps drown out trigger sounds while giving your ears something constant to engage with. They also can be turned up and down with a small wheel that hangs over the back of your ears, and the device is nearly invisible.

The bad news is they cost $2,400. So… that won’t be happening for me any time soon. If someone with misophonia can afford this type of white noise generator, I’d be really curious to know how they work for you. Would they really drown out all the triggers — even loud pops made by chewing gum, or a metal spoon clanking against a ceramic bowl? I’m a bit skeptical.

I found some less expensive white noise generators online, but some appear to block the entire ear canal; they seem basically like an ear plug with a white noise speaker in them. Those seem cool, but the beauty of the pricey in-ear white noise generator is that it doesn’t block the entire ear canal — meaning you can still hear the noises you want to, such as a friend talking to you.

The closest alternative to the $2,400 model I found online costs around $400 for both ears. I am not sure whether they are near the same quality as the $2,400 model recommended by the misophonia specialist I saw.

Here are some other models I found online. I honestly have no idea how well they work, but I figured I pass the information along anyway.

I also had my hearing checked and discovered I have impeccable hearing, which is fairly common for people with misophonia, according to the specialist I saw. I was surprised by this because I’ve spent many years blasting music into my ears through headphones, and I’ve attended countless concerts that have left my ears ringing for hours. I never cared about damaging my ears, and I secretly hoped I would make myself slightly hard of hearing as a way to help me escape my condition. I guess that didn’t work.

I’ll post an update once I know about any cognitive behavioral therapy sessions I might have. Thanks for all of the comments on my posts. It’s been really great hearing other people’s experiences with misophonia.

The science behind misophonia, and possible treatments

NOTE: Much has changes since I wrote this post. Please see my blog’s home page for updates on what I’ve learned about this condition and the experimental treatments I’m trying. 

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I was poking around on a website that helps link misophonia sufferers to doctors who study the condition, and I found a document on the site that gives a thorough explanation of misophonia and its associated conditions, including phonophobia (fear of sounds).

The explanations were so good, I thought I would share them here. For more information, visit the 4S provider network website.

According to the document, this is how you pronounce the condition:  mis-ō-fō′nē-ă (MISS OH PHONY UH)

Theory behind why it happens: “The auditory pathways may be functioning normally, but there is an abnormally strong reaction of the limbic (emotional system) and autonomic nervous system (body control system) to which the auditory system is intimately connected.”

Several definitions are listed for the disorder, including:

1. “Abnormally strong negative reactions of the autonomic and limbic systems to specific sounds resulting from enhanced functional connections between the auditory and limbic systems for these sounds.  The auditory system works in a normal manner, without abnormally high activation.  At the behavioral level, sounds specific for a given patient evoke strong negative reactions.  This situation may cause general negative attitude to sound as well.  When fear is dominant emotion (patient is afraid of sound) phonophobia occurs (phobia – fear).  Phonophobia is a specific case of misophonia.”

2. “Selective sound sensitivity should be considered a type of misophonia, where soft sounds (typically eating and breathing sounds made by emotional attachment figures) are the focus, and the quality of those sounds causes annoyance and rage in the listener.”

3. “Pre-puberty seems to be a very common age of onset for the majority of those with misophonia, with lifetime persistence for most cases, and there appears to be a genetic component.”

4. “Misophonia can be considered abnormally strong connections between the autonomic and limbic resulting from enhanced connections between the auditory and limbic systems.  These connections encompass both a high level of cortical level loop with involvement with cognition as well as subconscious connections, most probably involving the link between the medial geniculate body and the amygdale. The functions of these connections are governed by the principles of conditioned reflexes.”

The definitions are super technical, but I thought I would share them anyway in case someone wanted to understand just what was going on with the wiring in their heads. Looks like misophonia happens when the wires that affect your hearing get crossed with the wires that affect your emotions. It’s pretty fascinating, really. But I’d be much more fascinated if I didn’t have to deal with it every day of my life.

OK, so what about the current treatments?

According to the document, all of the following are being used to help treat (not cure) misophonia:

  • Tinnitus retraining therapy has been tried using bilateral sound generators and directive counseling
  • Earplugs are often prescribed to help block out intruding sounds
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Desensitization therapies including adversive exposure therapy, sensory integration auditory programs, and many others
  • Counseling therapies
  • Rotating cycles of pleasant sound therapy paired with unpleasant sounds
  • Psychoanalysis

My appointment with a misophonia specialist is happening soon, so I’ll be sure to discuss these treatment options at that time. Stay tuned…

Taking the first steps to getting help

Today I made a big step toward getting help for my misophonia. I made an appointment for a consultation with a woman in Portland, Oregon, who specializes in audiology disorders, including tinnitus, hyperacusis and misoponia.

I left a message with the doctor on Friday and she called me while at work on Monday. I left my desk and took the call, making sure I went some place where nobody could hear what I was talking about. She told me that the consultation costs $75. I said yes.

During the consultation, she said she will determine whether I have misophonia (no question there!) and then talk about the services she provides. I’m not trying to get my hopes up because I know that there is no known cure for this condition. But if I can learn any sort of coping strategies that might help me manage my misophonia, I’d say it’s worth $75 to learn about them.

I had always thought about eventually seeking help for misophonia, but something I learned about my family motivated me to actually do it. I recently found out that an older relative of mine committed suicide and referenced his struggle with tinnitus — or ringing in the ears — in his suicide note. That really frightened me, and I want to make sure I never get to such a dark place.

My appointment is not for a few weeks, but I will post about how the appointment went after I go.

Speaking of follow up posts, I wrote a post a while back saying I would test out musicians earplugs and how they work with blocking trigger noises. I got them in the mail and brought them to work to test them out. I particularly needed ear plugs at my office because of a woman who constantly chewed and popped her gum.

I have relied on disposable soft earplugs for some time, but it is hard to know when someone at work is trying to get my attention. And when I take an earplug out in order to talk to them, they either gave me weird looks or ask me why I was wearing them. The theory I wanted to test with musician earplugs was whether they would block the trigger sounds while letting me clearly hear when a person was speaking to me.

The short answer: No. They won’t.

It’s true that the musicians earplugs I tried allowed me to hear people talking with clarity, but they also let trigger noises through. I could hear every pop of the gum being chewed by my coworker. So, musicians earplugs work for drummers or guitarists who want to protect their ears while still hearing their music. But they don’t adequately block out misophonia triggers — at least not for me.

I did purchase the least expensive musicians earplugs, though. There are some that are custom made for the ear and are hundreds of dollars. But if the concept is the same in the expensive ear plugs, then I assume they would not be worth the investment.

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