People often associate sound disorders with difficulty hearing things. However, sometimes the exact opposite is true — people can have an oversensitivity to sound. In these cases, noises that seem normal to one person can seem unbearably disruptive to others or even cause an extreme emotional response.
Our Sharp Hearing Care Professionals team includes expert audiologists with the skills to treat these difficult conditions, including misophonia. In this blog, they explain what people don’t understand about this challenging disorder.
When sounds are more than annoying
Most people have become agitated by an annoying sound at some point. Whether it’s a person coughing throughout a concert or someone repeatedly snapping chewing gum, those situations can drive even the most tolerant person up a wall!
But misophonia is more than annoyance. Instead, this extreme sensitivity to sound causes an emotional response that can limit the ability to think, concentrate, and even learn. And it’s completely beyond a person’s control — something most people can’t understand.
When you have misophonia, a sound triggers an autonomic reaction in the nervous system, similar to the fight-or-flight response. There’s also evidence that people with misophonia exhibit increased neuronal activities in a part of the brain known as the anterior insular cortex — the area responsible for sensory processing and emotions.
The result? A specific sound triggers a physical and emotional reaction that causes extreme distress. Instead of being simply annoyed, a sound can trigger the overwhelming urge to leave the room, press your hands over your ears, or exclaim, “Stop making that sound!”
Additional reactions to sound triggers include:
- Increased sweating, blood pressure, heart rate, temperature
- Tightness or pressure in the chest or body
- A sense of panic or anxiety
- Rage, anger, disgust, or feelings of aggression
Unfortunately, this distress can be so intense for a person with misophonia that they may try to avoid certain situations altogether.
The smallest sounds can cause the biggest problems
The other thing people typically don’t understand about misophonia involves the sounds that trigger the reaction. Instead of the troublesome noises being loud or overwhelming, they’re often fairly innocuous, such as:
- Lip smacking, slurping, crunching, or chomping
- Throat clearing
- Loud breathing
It’s common for people with misophonia to have problems only when other people make these sounds — not when they make the sound themself. Sometimes, environmental triggers cause the intense response, like the sounds of writing, paper shuffling, clocks ticking, or dinnerware clinking.
Living with misophonia isn’t easy. For people without the condition, just imagine how the sound grating on a chalkboard gets to you. Does it make your blood boil? Now imagine being exposed to a trigger sound on a regular basis.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage misophonia, and our experts have the unique skills to help. After performing an audiology assessment to look for underlying issues, we can develop a personalized treatment strategy, such as:
- Misophonia retraining therapy, which desensitizes you to your triggers
- Noise-canceling headphones to reduce exposure to triggers
- Custom-made earmolds to delivers white noise, music, or pleasant sounds into the ear
Are you extremely sensitive to sound? Our team has the tools to make a difference. Contact Sharp Hearing Care Professionals to schedule a consultation in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and West Hills, California, today.