Misophonia (Hatred of Sound)

This letter was written to introduce misophonia to healthcare professionals.

Misophonia is being researched by the scientific community, but progress is slow. A current hypothesis being explored is that misophonia is a neurological disorder in which selective auditory signals trigger a fight-or-flight reflex. The average age of onset appears to be between 8 and 12 years old.

Someone who suffers from this condition typically has a strong negative emotional reaction to the repetition of a variety of sounds, frequently these sounds are associated with mouth noises such as chewing, slurping or breathing. However, there are many different sounds, or triggers, that can cause a problem for someone with misophonia such as sniffing, pens clicking, heel-tapping, typing, dogs barking, birds chirping, etc. Typically, any sound has the potential to become a trigger. Sometimes just the sight of one of these behaviors can trigger an intense reaction. Some misophonia sufferers also have purely visual triggers like jiggling legs or other repetitive mannerisms. Everyone has different triggers and has different emotional reactions. However, the clear majority have in common a feeling of some degree of anger at mouth sounds. While mild sufferers of misophonia may feel tense or irritated by these sounds, more severe cases involve uncontrollable outbursts of panic, anger and possibly even rage.

People with misophonia often have little or no control over their reactions. They realize that their sensitivities to these sounds are irrational. They often experience a fight or flight response to auditory stimuli that most people take little or no notice of whatsoever.

Many people with misophonia suffer for years in silence, believing that they are the only person experiencing this reaction and that they must be “crazy.” They often try many different strategies to cope with or avoid their triggers including earplugs, eating in isolation, white noise generators, prescribed medications, drugs/alcohol/self-medication, hypnosis, CBT and other therapies, but nothing truly seems to provide significant relief. Misophonia sufferers feel misunderstood, isolated, and hopeless. In extreme cases, sufferers can become deeply depressed and even suicidal.

The growing number of online support communities suggests that misophonia is a widespread problem. There are currently many thousands of users of online support groups. One has over 17,000 members (Misophonia Support Group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/misophoniasupport/). Discussions in these groups often express frustration with health care providers who are ignorant of the existence of this condition and who underestimate the severity of its symptoms.

Some informative abstracts:

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0054706

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982216315305

https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/85/8/e3.32.short

MISOPHONIA INFORMATION SHEET

Misophonia is a debilitating condition where specific sounds/repetitive visual stimuli trigger immense anger, rage, or disgust.

These sounds typically involve mouth noises such as chewing or slurping, but the sounds vary from individual to individual.

The mental anguish felt by the sufferer is intolerable and can lead to intense feelings of guilt, isolation, depression, and even suicide ideation. Career choices are also limited for sufferers due to a triggered environment.

Onset of misophonia is usually pre-puberty, typically around 8-12 years of age. The initial trigger is often caused by a family member

There may be a genetic component to misophonia.

Sufferers often feel they are alone in this condition and may think they are “crazy”. Feelings of embarrassment often overcome the desire to speak out.

To cope with misophonia, many strategies including earplugs, eating in isolation, white noise generators, prescribed medications, drugs/alcohol/self-medication, hypnosis, CBT and other therapies have been experimented with, with little or no success.

Misophonia has similarities to OCD, PTSD, panic disorder, and even autism; yet it is distinctly different from these disorders.

Misophonia is sometimes misunderstood to be hyperacusis, tinnitus or other related audiological disorders. It is the very specific, sometimes barely audible, everyday noises that tend to be problematic.

Many individuals with misophonia are told by health care professionals that their problem is psychological and dismiss its significance, mostly due to a lack of understanding of the condition.

A current hypothesis being explored is that misophonia is some type of neurological disorder in which repeated auditory signals trigger a fight-or-flight reflex.