As people with misophonia, we may sometimes be reluctant to use earplugs or headphones in public or with friends and family. It can seem like a wall goes up when our hearing becomes protected from outside trigger sounds. And to a degree, using hearing protection does put up a wall. To which I think it’s OK to say: “So what?”
Yes, we may appear anti-social to some people when we place earplugs into our ears, but no one blinks when welders put on their eye protection. People aren’t offended when we escape an area of air pollution such as when a car spews forth exhaust fumes. There are many more examples of how we protect ourselves from sensory and physical harm I could mention.
It is commendable to be sensitive to the needs of others. We are social beings, and not wanting to appear detached or visibly annoyed by the sounds people make (or might make) shows consideration of other people’s feelings. Unfortunately, others don’t always extend this social courtesy to us.
When people make excessive, unnecessary, or exaggerated sounds that trigger us, protecting our ourselves is not an aggressive or inconsiderate act. It’s not rude to avoid or escape frustration, stress, or pain. Even when others make normal, or even necessary sounds (like breathing), we still have a right to avoid or diminish the negative impact these sounds cause.
Simply put, other people do not have more rights than we do. There may be a consensus that noise is inevitable, and a normal part of modern life, but everyone has the right to do what it takes to live peaceably.
Let the noisy people think whatever they like. Let them be offended. Or think you’re rude. Or be annoyed with you for wearing earplugs. Does it matter? In public situations, you may never see those people again. So, let them stare. Or wonder what’s going on that prompts you to wear earplugs. In the end, it’s none of their business.
In personal interactions, you can choose to educate friends, family, and co-workers about your misophonia and why hearing protection is necessary. But know your audience first. Decide whether the downside of being forthcoming about your sound sensitivity is worth the possible blowback (some people may intentionally trigger you to “see what happens,” etc.)
Noisy people and environments are problems. Not you. You are not a problem that needs to be solved.
No one chooses to have misophonia. We are not controlling, attention-seeking people; we have what is thought to be a neurological disorder. We need to protect ourselves as best we can from a noisy world and people who don’t understand our sound sensitivities. Sometimes, this means wearing ear protection.
It’s true; no one is to blame on either side of the problem. But noise pollution and inconsiderate people present serious challenges to people with misophonia. And we, like everyone else, have the right to protect ourselves from stress and safeguard our well-being.