After many attempts at trying to curb my Misophonia, I decided to try my most expensive option yet: neurofeedback.
I’m apprehensive to even write about neurofeedback because I don’t want this post to seem like an endorsement of the method. But basically, the neuro process works like this: you relax in a chair with a few electronic sensors attached to your ears and scalp; the sensors read your brain waves as you listen to music and watch a light display on a computer screen; the music and light display are interrupted ever-so-slightly when the sensors detect that your brain is deviating from a happy and healthy state; these slight interruptions – or ‘feedback’ – are believed by some to rewire your brain to achieve some level of normalcy.
I’ve read about a handful of people online who say the method has cured their Misophonia or has at least reduced their symptoms.
There are a number of computer programs out there that provide this service. I tried Zengar’s Neuroptimal after the creator of that particular program, Val Brown, spoke at the first Misophonia conference in Portland a couple of years ago. There also was a man at the conference who said that after trying neuro, his Misophonia completely vanished. One couple there said they were about to purchase their own neurofeedback machine to use whenever they wanted, at a cost of about $10,000.
Neuroptimal is a one-size-fits-all approach to neurofeedback. It claims to help with a whole host of problems, including ADHD, autism, Alzheimers disease and post-traumatic stress disorder. It claims to help you sleep better and to increase your ability focus at the office.
I found someone in my area with a Neuroptimal machine and met her for a consultation. She administered neuro in an office-like setting; it felt like I was going to see a therapist and there was even a reception desk. My practitioner told me she had treated one other person with Misophonia, and that Neuroptimal reduced that person’s Misophonia triggers. I was asked to commit up-front to 24 sessions at $75 each – an $1,800 investment. I agreed.
I started weekly sessions and hoped for an improvement, but ultimately I saw none.
My practitioner, who does not have Misophonia, seemed to truly believe in the power of neuro, almost to the point that it seemed to cloud her judgement when I told her that I wasn’t seeing any improvements. She would ask me questions such as, “Is there anything at all that you’re noticing that’s different? Are you sleeping better? Are you able to focus better at work? Are your relationships better?”
Was she actually encouraging me to seek out a placebo effect? It seemed unscientific and unprofessional. She also told me that it was OK if I fell asleep during my neuro sessions and that it would be just as effective either way.
“Wow… It’s working,” she’d say after pointing to the analytics spit out by the neuro program following a session. “Stuff’s moving.” That was her way of telling me my brain was creating new pathways; it was being rewired to find a different response to triggers. Despite her take on what was happening to my brain, my Misophonia remained the same. I declined further neuro sessions.
My provider said I should see some changes during those 24 sessions. In the rare endorsements I’ve read online about using neuro to treat Misophonia, people have said it can take many, many more sessions than 24 to start seeing an improvement. I simply didn’t have the financial means to continue, nor the ability to suspend my disbelief any longer.
If you have unlimited time and money, or if there’s a practitioner out there willing to treat you for free, I suppose you could give it a whirl. In that case, I also would suggest trying a neuro program that is more targeted than the one-size-fits-all approach. It would be wonderful to be able to hear that the method is working for more than just a handful of people with Misophonia.
If money is tight, I would strongly urge you not to try neurofeedback until there is insurmountable evidence that this method does help people with Misophonia. It’s simply too expensive, and having a practitioner tell you that you probably just need more sessions before you see improvements? It leaves too much room for the possibility that you’ll be taken advantage of.
If you disagree with me, or if you’ve come across any peer-reviewed studies or scholarly articles that suggest neurofeedback provides more than a placebo effect for any disease or disorder, could you let me know in the comments section?
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.
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.
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.