If you have the time and would like to help further Misophonia and sound sensitivity research, consider participating in an online survey being conducted by psychology researchers in Melbourne, Australia.
The survey takes about 20-30 minutes and asks questions about how you process sounds. You also might be asked to listen to certain sounds and rate how you feel about them.
Here’s a link to the survey: http://hearing.sollysweb.com/
Click here for more information about the researchers and the study.
One thing that has been particularly frustrating about my misophonia is that the trigger sounds I’ve had have increased and evolved over time, and I’ve even developed certain visual triggers. When I was in middle school, it seemed like the only thing that really triggered my condition was the sound of people smacking their lips when they ate. I was mostly bothered by people who didn’t chew with their mouths closed. If they ate something crunchy but their mouth was closed, that was fine.
I can’t remember the precise order, but eventually crunching bothered me, and gum popping, and then even the sound of a food packaging rustling. Perhaps because I associated that noise with the trigger noises of eating that would soon follow? Then there was nail biting, then anyone picking at their fingernails.
One day I sat by my mother in church and just began noticing her foot tapping as she had her legs crossed. I found this incredibly disturbing because I was feeling the same emotions I would feel from hearing a trigger noise. But this wasn’t a noise. At that point in my life, I did not know about the condition I had and that others had it. I was certain that I was losing my mind, and I worried about what could possibly be next for me.
I’ve since learned through research that many people with misophonia also have visual triggers like foot tapping or seeing people put their hands near their mouths. Others have reported particular trigger feelings such as having one’s chair kicked repeatedly in an auditorium. That last one is another trigger I have.
This year, breathing noises have started to bother me. Learning this was devastating. You can still have normal interactions with people if you’re bothered by chewing noises; people are not constantly eating. But they are constantly breathing. So far, the only person whose breathing upsets me from time to time is that of my partner. I started to notice it one night when I was trying to fall asleep next to him, and I panicked. It doesn’t bother me all the time, but I’m worried about what it could mean if my breathing trigger worsens.
Having sounds that trigger anger and anxiety seems bad enough, but when those triggers evolve or get worse, it makes it harder to cope. I’m curious: have others with misophonia found that their triggers evolve? Have the triggers gotten worse? Have they ever gotten better?
Hey, I can dream.
If you’re curious about the story that goes with the photo in this post, read that story here.
I ordered some musicians earplugs online yesterday in the hopes that they will be more effective than the foam earplugs I currently use at work. Someone suggested musician earplugs in the comment thread to the New York Times article earlier this week about misophonia.
I should get the earplugs in the mail this week, and I’ll write a review of how they work. I’ve noticed my foam earplugs become less effective over time, and it’s not that hygienic to reuse them over and over again. My hope is that these new earplugs can be washed and reused, and that they will block out a lot of the soft sounds I hate while still allowing me to hear people clearly when they talk to me.
Also, I found a Misophonia Support tumblr (which has linked to my blog – thanks!) that informed me the Today Show did a segment on misophonia this week following the New York Times article. You can watch it here and I’ve also embedded the video below. Please be aware that a lot of the b-roll and natural sounds added to the segment are very triggering — a person eating an apple, a woman chewing gum, etc.
There is a great interview after the segment that filled me with hope to watch. The television journalist was treating the interviewee with misophonia in a respectful way, with belief and understanding. After receiving very little respect and understanding throughout my life in regards to my misophonia, this was an uplifting sight.
I was a little irked by the phrase “for people who think they have misophonia” when the journalist described the Internet support groups that exist. But all in all, I enjoyed the Today Show’s coverage of misophonia. Hopefully this week does not simply represent misophonia’s 15 minutes of fame, but instead is the beginning of a movement to help the medical community realize that this is a serious condition for many people.
Here’s the video on YouTube:
Today at work, a colleague of mine who sits a few feet away was chomping down on some candy, so I instantly put in my earplugs. Another coworker came over to discuss something important with me. I had to remove my earplugs and talk to the woman who had come over. The entire time, I was agitated by the sounds going on around me, and I think that irritability came out while I was talking. I was short, I didn’t fully listen to what was being said to me and I tried to end the conversation as soon as possible. I was experiencing several emotions: intense anger at the person eating candy, worry and fear that I could not immediately escape the noise, and guilt that I was taking my anger out on an innocent bystander.
It’s just another example of how misophonia can make everyday human interactions difficult.
This is just a quick post for anyone with misophonia who wants to help contribute to the research effort about this condition. Click here. It looks like the survey will be used to find any commonalities between those who have misophonia and to create data to show that this condition does indeed affect many people in a very distinct way.
I just took the survey and it lasted about 10 minutes. You also can sign up at the end of the survey for an email alert for when the findings are released. I’m not sure how long the survey will be available.
Great news! One of the largest and most reputable newspapers in the world, the New York Times, wrote a story yesterday about misophonia. I’m posting the photo used with the column because I like the way the art expresses this condition.
I recently wrote about why awareness of misophonia is so important to people who have the condition. So, how does the article do when it comes to explaining misophonia?
The article is respectful and makes the correct distinctions between misophonia and other conditions, such as hyperacusis. The article also provides some resources for support groups, including:
All in all, a great story. I hope that future articles about this condition might focus on solutions. Clearly there is no cure-all for misophonia, but there are people studying and trying to figure it out. There are also some therapies and medications that are currently being experimented with.
I appreciated the stories shared in the article by people who have misophonia. It is interesting to see how other people cope after I’ve had the disorder for so long and have developed my own unique coping mechanisms. One woman said she has a headache when asking people to quiet down. Another shuts the door to her office at work. I’m an earplug addict, although there are some times at work when I need to be listening to others, and I come into contact with a trigger noise. Just today I was sitting in on a training at work and a man walked up behind me to listen in on the lecture. He was eating an apple. I had to excuse myself to use the restroom, and I missed a large chunk of the training.
I’ve told one coworker — who also happens to be a friend of mine — about my condition, but I don’t think she realizes how it affects me in the workplace. She is constantly trying to talk to me while she is eating or chewing gum, and she complains about not being able to get my attention because I’m always wearing earplugs.
I discovered I had misophonia in 2008, more than a decade after I actually developed the condition. I was probably around 12 or 13 and I was at the breakfast table eating cereal with my brother before heading to school. As we sat there eating, I simply began to notice something. My brother was smacking his lips as he chewed his cereal — Frosted Flakes, if I remember correctly. I felt so uncomfortable by the noise that I felt compelled to ask him if he could chew with his mouth closed.
Then I started noticing the noise with other people in my family. My mom smacked her lips while eating, too. She chewed a lot of gum, and I had to leave the room to avoid hearing certain eating sounds. I would want to spend time downstairs with my family, but the second someone went to grab something to snack on, I was walking briskly up the stairs to my room, like clockwork.
Trapped in a car with a gum chewer was torture. If a classmate chewed gum next to me in school, I missed the entire lecture because I couldn’t stop focusing on the noise as resentment and anger bubbled up inside. I cried myself to sleep at the sounds of a muffled television coming from my parents room after my father refused to turn it off.
But possibly the worst part of all, I thought I was the only one. This was before I knew how to browse the Web. All I knew was that nobody else appeared to share my problem, and that my family seemed to regard me as whiny and manipulative. I kept things bottled up inside and suffered silently during everyday events. When I went to the movies with friends, I’m sure they had no idea that I couldn’t wait for the movie to end and that I was obsessing about all of the people eating popcorn or chewing on the ice from their sodas.
I especially made sure not to tell anyone I dated. Finally, when I was 23, a boyfriend and I went on a road trip. We stopped at a gas station, and I saw him head inside and purchase a bag of Doritos. I was overwhelmed by panic, and I was especially concerned because I was the one driving. I tried to remain calm as we drove back onto the highway. He grabbed the bag of chips and opened them. He crunched down on chip after chip and I felt as if I wanted to drive off the road. I came clean with him, and he was the one who looked up my condition online.
I found a Yahoo group of people who had my exact same problem. I read about one woman who had to eat at the far end of the dining room table with music blasting if she wants to dine with her husband. One member of the group said her mother used to chew ice all the time while watching television in the living room, so as a girl, she spent most of her childhood in her bedroom. I spent hours researching what I had and learned there was no cure, and that just a few doctors were starting to research it. But it was amazing to know that I was not alone. I could name what I had and find a support group made up of people like me.
It sounds simple, but knowing I had misophonia changed my life.
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?
Literally, misophonia means the hatred of sounds. But for an unknown percentage of the population, it is a diagnosis for an auditory condition that causes a person to feel strong, negative emotions in response to a specific group of everyday sounds.
Crunching, lip smacking, licking, slurping — the sounds people typically make while eating or drinking.
Muffled music or a television in nearby room.
Silverware clinking against bowls or plates.
The crinkling of plastic bags.
Sometimes, the condition also includes a strong, negative reaction to the person seeing a certain motion, such as the tapping of a foot or a person biting their fingernails. These sound and sight triggers create such a reaction within the mind of the person who has misophonia, that the person may feel the need to flee from the sound, suffer quietly with their anxiety about the sound, cope by using earplugs or listening to music in headphones, or even lash out at the source of the sound (think “fight or flight” when it comes to misophonia).
There is no cure for this disorder, and it does not seem to be recognized much by the medical community. But I know all to well that this condition is real. I have misophonia. This blog space will serve two purposes. First, it will provide a first-person account of life with this disorder in the hopes of raising awareness about misophonia. Second, it will provide resources for people who have misophonia and their loved ones.
Many blog posts are to come. In the meantime, please familiarize yourself with this condition by visiting the following websites.
This blog will remain anonymous.