A typical day with misophonia

Disclaimer: Suffering exists in this world in many different forms. On this blog, I will share what it is like to live with misophonia. I have loved ones with cancer. Loved ones with crippling addictions and other sturggles. I am in no way saying that my life is worse than anyone else’s. Life can be a challenge for every creature on this planet, and my story is just one example of that.

Today I went to work. As I walked out my front door, I checked once more that I had at least one pair of earplugs on me. As I got on the subway, I made sure my iPod was blasting music. I sat down to notice a woman facing my direction on the car was chewing gum. I looked down at my lap to avoid seeing her chomp down over and over again. Soon it was my stop and a feeling of relief washed over me as I walked quickly through the doors of the subway.

Later, I sat at my desk at work. I had my earplugs in because a coworker was chewing gum. She bit down, causing a popping sound to fly from her mouth. Air pockets in the gum, I suppose. Hearing the sound makes me sit straight up. It’s all I can think about, that sound and how to escape it. It creates a loop of panic my mind that makes it very difficult to focus on anything else. I begin to resent the source of the sound — in this case, my coworker. Why is she always chewing gum? She looks like a bimbo with such a large wad of gum in her mouth. Can’t she spit it out already? It must be completely flavorless and unsatisfying by now. Etc.

The earplugs are my salvation, although some believe they might make one’s misophonia worse over time. Earplugs also make it difficult to communicate with my colleagues. I am constantly being tapped on the shoulder when someone needs my attention. People think I’m strange. I just tell them that I work better with earplugs in; it helps me concentrate. I feel that nobody would understand me if I told them the truth.

During a meeting in the conference room, a coworker taps her foot vigorously, and I can see the movement out of the corner of my eye.  I have to rest my head in my hand in such as way that I’ve blocked my peripheral view of the foot tapping. I wonder if anyone thinks I look strange doing this.

When I get home from work, I wear earplugs if I can hear my housemate clearing his throat in the other room. I hate that noise. I also have to wear earplugs if I can hear my housemates clanking their silverware and plates together while they eat or do the dishes.

I wonder how bad things will get. I have heard misophonia gets worse with age. Will I be able to withstand a typical office environment? Is it possible to sustain a healthy romantic relationship with this condition? If I ever have children, will I end up resenting them for the sounds they make? Will I distance myself from them? Will there ever be a cure? Will I become a hermit — a completely miserable shut-in?

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14 responses

  1. wow.. i feel like your words could have been extracted from my own (unwritten) daily experience. it seems that we have similar activity patterns and inevitable exposure to corresponding trigger sounds, and believe me *that* struggle is real 😦

    Earplugs are always a good short term safety net, and crucial (imho) to have on hand during circumstances that may not allow a “seat change” – ie rush hour commute, office space, etc. However, the double-edge sword is that conscious exposure to the trigger sound(s) is seemingly the only long-term cure thats actually been established at this point. Other stress-reducing methods such as exercise, clean eating and rest have been know to help, but apparently exposure is key.

    So here’s what I’m curious about- has anypne heard of and/or used the app (“formerly known as Hear”) called “H__r” ?? its virtually impossible to describe, but basically mixes outside sounds with a bunch of settings the user can control, and more or less produces your own custom “white noise” 🙂 the fact that it incorporates outside sounds to do this could theoretically count for some form of exposure- distorted as it may be …

  2. Hello everyone,
    so I am not crazy, I am just sick. And not alone.
    Good to know.
    Anyway, if I need to concentrate (read, study, work, sleep) I always use headphones (using a FM receiver – I can even walk around my home) with white noise, pink noise or whatever you call it (natural noises like storm, rain, waterfall, river or even train are also very pleasent to me – you can find this on youtube) because if I am at home I need complete silence – which these are completely substituing.
    I can go out and participate a conversation,….unless – DOG BARKING!
    Yes, I hear you, it is the worst stimul for me. Actualy, I love nature. I can spend all day outside, in the forest, in the mountains there is such a silence. There are no natural sounds that ennoyes me. Sometimes my harmony can be ruined by something klicking in my backpack or loud noises or screaming, but barking is just torchering. I really feel physicall pain hearing it, like a knife in my neck or something.
    Sometimes I even mind visual things or my hair touching my skin or something. I am 22 and it appeard just few years ago, it slowly makes me enclosed antisocial person, so I am really afraid of it. I am studying to be a teacher, but now I have strong doubts about it. In a company, I usualy can act normal, but there are moments I “switch” to crazy, because of laughing, crying of a baby or even some loudly voices in the corridor.
    Sorry for my english, I am from Czech Republic. 😉
    Thanks for any response

  3. I hate this condition so much because it makes me fear myself.Dogs barking is my main and worse trigger and wouldnt you know it my neighbor has a machine gun barker.I’ve called AC(with or without misophonia this dog barks to much) and all it did was make the moron owner put the dog outside as early as 8 in the morning. Im going to end up killing this dog.

    1. Hurray!!! I am not alone. I so suffer from dogs barking that I do not go outside without earplugs, and or ear buds feeding me music. I really don’t mind the animal, but the barking has actually caused me to put my enraged fist through a window trying to get a dogs attention to stop. Spelling may be off, but I am on Clonazepam and Clomipramine.
      They dont take away the rage completely, but do tame the pain way down. Of course, good ol paper towels rolled with a little aloe vera after sun gel into a tight little ball, cuts it even more. I am the worst case I have heard of yet. This torment has wracked me since a kid. At 53, am now seeing signs of physical problems that most likely have come from a life time of anxiety. Dear Lady, do all you can to take charge and stay away from the triggers. They appear to never get better. I have just started back with a therapist and psychiatrist for another go at it. I’ve gone through so mush money in professionals that dont get results with me. So be a great blocker. The dogs, and feet shufflers, and eaters and sniffers and on and on will always be there. Block and protect. I have fantasized every option imaginable to end a barking German Shepard. but blocking is your long term plan. Good luck.
      I hope you find peace and calm.
      Jeff
      jeffhast@live.com

      1. Misophonia seems to start when your young and get worse doesnt it?Barking annoyed me as a kid but over time it turned to anger.At age 28 I just go straight into rage mode when it comes to dogs.Right now the dog across the street is going into its 3rd hour of nonstop barking.Ive got 2 heaters and a tv on but nothing blocks it out.Its a very high pitch bark for such a large dog.
        Its frustrating because I can handle my other triggers fairly well by removing myself from the offending noise but it honestly sounds like this dog is sitting in my livingroom.
        Since its just one dog I plan on fighting this battle…i refuse to spend another hot sticky Georgia summer with my windows and doors closed.Some fights I’ll never win(what I wouldnt give to have those kit kat commercials wiped off the face of the planet)but I think this one is winnable.The law is on my side(my city has strict laws concerning nuisance dogs)I just have to make officials enforce them.
        When the dog isnt barking and Im not seeing red I feel sorry for it.In the 1 year they have lived here I’ve never seen them play with it once.They feed and water it and thats about all the human contact it gets.Its bored but I just cant handle that noise regardless of its reasons.
        Ranting like this actually helps a little.For what its worth Jeff Id be happy if you can find some solice in knowing someone else feels your pain.I passed on a beautiful house I could actually afford because there was no less than 3 dogs barking their heads off on the same street.

  4. Reblogged this on Work-Life Strategies & Solutions and commented:
    Imagine what it’s like to be forced to endure the typical office environment when you have misophonia (selective sound sensitivity syndrome). It’s a neurological disorder whose prevalence is unknown and for which there is no known cure. However, it’s regarded as more common than previously thought.

    To an extent I know what it’s like as the high-pitched sounds of certain yappy little dog breeds never fail to drive me into a hulk-like rage. However, the sounds of the usual light-hearted social chatter that happens throughout the day in an office setting (pleasant though the subject matter often is) are not just wearying to me as an introvert. At the end of each day, I notice an indescribable internal pain which is relieved only by silence.

    I find that long-term use of ear plugs or having to blast sounds one prefers to hear in order to block out other sounds isn’t the way to go for health-related reasons. Those who follow my blog know what I’m about to say. This is yet another reason to grant workers more control over their working environments. If providing isolated offices isn’t a viable alternative due to the price tag associated with space then a remote work arrangement may be the answer.

    Read “A typical day with misophonia” to discover how different someone else’s experience of typical work environments can be.

  5. I am so glad I found this little blog! I have had an aversion to everyday sounds since I was little and used to resent my sister for eating with her mouth open. It used to drive me crazy. Since then I just can’t stand hearing people eat, especially crisps and noisy foods. As I’ve got older it’s gotten worse and even more sounds annoy me like hearing people breathing, typing on a keyboard, pens tapping…I could go on but I’d be here all day.
    Everyone thought I was just a bit weird and intolerant when I’d sit there with fingers in my ears until they had finished whatever task they were doing that was annoying me. I found it really hard to explain why the noise made my skin crawl and force me out of the room because I couldn’t take it anymore. To be able to put a name to this affliction was such a relief as I could finally explain to those around me that I was just going mental!
    I’ve found being in an office environment extremely tough recently. There aren’t many people in our office and you can hear every tap of the keyboard, every loud breath and every crunch of a crisps or apple. If I really can’t take the sounds I have a pair of ear plugs on my desk which I will slip in and hope no one notices. It does make it difficult to communicate with people and I haven’t really told anyone in my office about my problem as I don’t think they would understand.

    I hope more can be done to help those that suffer from Misophonia and I’m glad I am not alone!

    1. Hello dear, you can pretty much bet they will not understand. That in point, is one of the main hurdles to this problem. To be around people that are not required to give a dam about you. I avoid most humans most of the time. Life is easier, but quite lonely. I had to have a class for two weeks, a week ago. I had to convince the instructor of my problem to allow me to have earphones and white noise going the entire time. I would manually take it out a bit while he was on main points. I lost a lot, and did not pass the last test as I did not know the full instructions. I missed them. The guy that sat in front of me had a nonstop tick with his jaw, head and neck area. he began to spin a rope to calm himself. I asked if he could stop the rope thing as this only further was shattering my already pathetic concentration. He refused as he needed it for his problem. I know from experience, there is no going to war over my problem. Feels like I should, but I will loose every time in the public eye. So swallow the pain and try and love the people around us for their good points. I have a snorter on a new job. I melt like butter in pain when this happens. He would not understand. He has seniority as well. With time, I have found a combination of communication is simply survival. I am either going to get help from the people around me or I am leaving. Be a giver. give of yourself in all you do. That way, people will naturally be more inclined to assist with this invisible trauma. Give and give and give of yourself. This builds a bank that you can lean on a bit in times of emergency. I have in head phones as I type this, blocking out dogs barking and my beautiful boys eating their breakfast. I just terminated a relationship I was building, because, although the person seemed to be learning and understanding this issue, her giant family surely was begging to be a problem. Learning to avoid pain in all its creations has become a really high priority for me. Overwhelm is just a few feet away at most times of the day. Becoming hypersensitive to what I am manufacturing in terms of bringing on more problems is a huge demand I must pay attention to. Earphones, earplugs, are always with me. Not letting the triggers get to me is part of my daily plan. 20 years ago I had an old doctor, who had really created the problem worse, after prescribing buspar tell me, get on with your life. You most likely will never get over this. Build a plan of safety and stick to it. If you loose a limb, there is a grim reality to get used to and except. This is not too far from that. Might get better, might lots of things. but for now, protect. People are not supposed to point at a fat person and laugh. But they do talk about it behind their backs. This is again the same. So be the best human possible to build your bank reserves of love, your gonna need it. Good luck. This is your mission, if you choose to except it. This actually is like karma screwing you for something you cant remember. So head off the disaster with giving. Be a giver. With careful introspective attention. It really is amazing how this can lead to a more loving life. But still a life without limbs, in a very similar way. Your crippled, get used to it, get on with it and protect. Practice little sayings of peace for those who are going to make this short time we have a literally, overwhelming hell on wheels, with the flames burning your already lonely tortured mind. I wish you peace in every way. Jeff

  6. Thanks for talking about this. Misophonia is a very real thing. Years ago, when I got a new boss at work, I was open with her about my “hearing problems,” and she was very supportive, allowing me to wear headphones at my cubicle. Eventually, she got me an isolated office. But my boss is extraordinary – an ordinary boss might not be so accommodating at first, and may have to be brought to an understanding only with enormous effort. Good luck, everyone.

  7. I have what you all have mented and more. Dogs barking completely shuts me down. So far the best I have come up with is to wet high quality paper towels that wont desinetagrate with aloe, after sun gel and push these small rolled up wet things in. No one can see it and it muffles most all sound. I change them daily and have done this for at least 15 years. In addition, I live with a radio blairing in my ears with headphones 24/7. At 50, this is a very debilitating illness. No one really understands and thinks I am crazy, I am not. I do avoid most all people and invite no one home. Just too painfull to try to take out the head phones and hear what they have to say. My young kids do suffer as I am a single dad and much less a man than some one without this thing would be. I wont bother to tell all the stories that are so common to this illness, but I will point out that I am nearing a place in time where it is so hard to work with this problem. It is just so difficult…

    1. Jeff, thanks for sharing your story. That is an interesting technique with the paper towels. I agree that it is really, truly difficult to have this condition. Maybe I’m naive, but I’m holding out hope that more coping mechanisms will be discovered — maybe even a cure — and that in the meantime, we can all work to raise awareness so people will stop thinking we’re “crazy.” Hang in there, and best of luck to you and your family.

      1. I just read about white noise generators. My first thought was about not only the cost being way out of line, but that the wear and tear a serious user will give it will surly make this thing old, very quickly. Having lived with every kind of head phone on, 24 hours a day for 15 years, I can easily say that the best and cheapest remedy I have found is to get a cheep, 10 to 15 dollar am/fm radio from a place like Walgreens that uses AAA batteries. A rechargeable system assists with the battery cost, but the radio will fail after several months or half a year. To put this kind of wear and tear on a little electronic devise pushes all limits. Digital tuners usually work far better that the old dial type and the batteries last longer as well. Small silicon ear buds that fit securely and comfortably in the ear are the best. The cords will break after a month or two of continual use, so replacement of this, is for me every 60 days or so. They easily snag on things and break that way as well. Always have an extra ready to go. This set on a smooth static am channel works well while sleeping, and which ever channel during the day keeps me interested and up to date on news or different music. I just had to except the discomfort of perpetual sound stimulation. I find the radio easier to take that an Ipod because I get so tired of the same songs so easily. I have lived with this condition all my life and I am so greatful to have finally found this oasis from the storm. I always have in wetted paper towels with aloe gel. That further cuts the noise of any sharp sounds and I am quite comfortable. With this method, I can cheaply control all sound from a light white noise that keeps me steady and protected or cranked up to complete sound stopping interferance. This may not be for everyone, but it has been my survival to have found this. I hope it helps.
        My email is jeffhast@ live.com if anyone needs any other advise on this method. Although it sounds scarry to have so much stuff in and out of your ears, I find tweezers get the plug out quite well and feel quite safe. You will need to be carful at first until you learn how to do this without risking any damage to your ears. Every one important in my life I have made aware of this. They help to inform me If I am missing a call I did not feel vibrate, or some other thing I missed. I constantly remind them how gratful I am that they assist me and always apologize as quickly as possible for any flare ups that occur. This point is the real issue with this traight. We think they all are at fault. To say, I am so sorry for having gotten angry at you, it is not your fault, I am to blame, you were being perfectly normal, will help to ease the pain of all your sound victims. Best of luck, Jeff.

  8. Thanks for another post. I have found earplugs an invaluble thing to have with me at all times. As for your questions re having a partner who understands… it is possible! I told my partner pretty much in the first month of meeting about my problem and I know I am respected and understood. We have been together for 6 years. We eat in separate rooms and I reveal my level of discomfort now at other times and know that being upfront and honest from the start helps build trust.
    I ca not imagine working in an office environment these days and am grateful I can work from home.

    1. I’m happy to hear you have a supportive partner! My current partner is great. I think the workplace is definitely one of the toughest challenges for people with misophonia, and until there is more awareness and understanding about this issue, I think it could stay that way.

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