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What is Misophonia?

What is Misophonia?  (more commonly known as  “please stop chewing/breathing/grinding your teeth/etc so loud it’s driving me CRAZY”)

Misophonia - or “hatred of sounds” -  is a disorder in which certain sounds cause a negative emotional or psychological response ranging from slight annoyance to anger, panic and the need to run away.  While the reactions vary, most people with misophonia report feeling anxious, uncomfortable, and disgust all the way to rage, anger, hatred, and emotional distress.   This response is very often perceived by family or friends as out of proportion to the trigger.

The most common sounds which trigger misophonia are repetitive oral sounds - those of chewing, breathing, snoring, slurping drinks, throat clearing or grinding their teeth.  However, other repetitive sounds such as foot or pencil tapping, windshield wipers, or tapping on a keyboard can also trigger a negative reaction.

 The cause of misophonia is unclear, but some studies suggest that it is related to the central nervous system, or how your brain responds to sounds or filters noise, and how it codes the importance of sounds. There appears to be a disruption in the connection between where the brain processes a sound and the fight or flight response.  It appears that for some people, an emotional reaction begins to occur with what was once a normal or slightly irritating sound and turns into an extreme adverse reaction. Some research shows that misophonia is actually pretty common, occuring in about 20% of the population, and that prepubescent girls (age 9-13) tend to develop it more than other groups.  It may also occur at a higher rate in those who suffer from tinnitus, as well as those with depression, autism-spectrum disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders and Tourette’s syndrome.

Testing for misophonia generally includes hearing testing to rule out other hearing problems, as well as a physical with your physician, and possibly a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist to help establish the diagnosis.  After diagnosis, treatment includes CBT - cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps change the person’s negative thoughts associated with the trigger sound. Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) also can help by improving the person’s ability to tolerate certain sounds.  Adding “white noise” to the area adds background noise to the environment and can help the person ignore the trigger. Also, certain medications that treat anxiety and depression have been tried, but are not generally used.

Since people with misophonia can dramatically alter their lifestyle to avoid anything they fear to be bothersome, the proper diagnosis is very important.  Research shows that with the proper treatment, 80% of sufferers experience significant relief from their symptoms. If you feel you or a loved one suffers from this disorder, please give our office a call and we can help guide you through the proper testing and treatment.

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