Everything you need to know about Misophonia

Misophonia is a disorder characterized by severe sensitivity to certain sounds. It was only recognized as a medical disorder in 2001.

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Everything you need to know about Misophonia

Misophonia is a disorder characterized by severe sensitivity to certain sounds. It was only recognized as a medical disorder in 2001. Pawel Jastreboff, Ph.D., and Margaret Jastreboff, Ph.D., both neuroscientists, invented the term after publishing a study in 2001 detailing symptoms of diminished sound tolerance. Recently, Drs. Jastreboff and Jastreboff published a new article in 2023 detailing a neurophysiological treatment approach to misophonia in Frontiers in Neuroscience (2023, 17:895574).


What are the most common misophonia symptoms?

Here are common “trigger” sounds to which people may be sensitive:

  • throat clearing
  • chewing
  • humming
  • tapping
  • pen-clicking
  • coughing
  • sniffing
  • nose-blowing

Hearing loss or tinnitus aren't required for people to develop misophonia. It is also unnecessary for these loud noises to evoke an emotional response in those with misophonia. Sounds specific to a patient, on the other hand, elicit powerful adverse emotional reactions on a behavioral level.

Those with a mild form of the illness may feel frightened, uneasy, or compelled to leave the area immediately. Those with more severe symptoms, on the other hand, are more likely to experience stronger emotions like fury, terror, and fear. When dread is the predominant emotion, phonophobia (fear of sound) develops, a subtype of misophonia.

Misophonia can be so severe that those who suffer from it are entirely overwhelmed by the noise. This might have a significant impact on your social life. Misophonia sufferers have been observed to develop anticipatory anxiety in settings where they are likely to hear the sound again. They may even avoid eating with their friends and family altogether. This is a condition that wreaks havoc on the individual’s well-being, social relationships, and family dynamics. Sadly, avoidance strategies only strengthen the negative reinforcement feedback loop that tells the brain that the trigger sounds should be considered a threat.


Causes of Misophonia

Misophonia was just given a name a few years ago, and it is not explicitly included in any medical manuals. Many doctors are unaware of it, and when patients describe their symptoms, they are frequently dismissed or diagnosed with different disorders.

While many misophonic people also suffer from anxiety or depression, this isn't always the case. Only a little research on the disorder's effects has been conducted. Because it is such a newly discovered condition, specialists are still debating whether it should be classified as its condition or a subset of another. There are two hallmark research studies that have shed light on the neurological underpinnings linked to misophonia, both conducted by Sukhbinder Kumar, Ph.D. and his research team in the United Kingdom.

Because the disorder is so poorly understood, it's difficult for friends and family members of those who suffer from it to understand how severe the symptoms can be or even accept that it exists. Misophonia sufferers may experience additional distress as a result of this condition. In the case of a child or teenager, it is very important that at least one or both parents attend an appointment with their child so all can be educated on management of misphonia.


Ways you can manage Misophonia on your own

There are many more ways you can deal with the symptoms of misophonia than you would with help from your audiologist, psychologist, therapist, or physician.

Keep a record: Keep a record of your misophonia symptoms. It is essential to write down your triggers, what they do, and when it happens. It would help if you also wrote down how you felt, what made it worse and what made it better.

Talk to the people who are affecting you: Take the time to talk about your condition with the people who elicit the strongest emotions from you. It's essential to tell them that they should not take it personally. It just so happens that their sounds make you feel bad. Most family members want to make you as comfortable as possible, even if they sometimes forget or don't know what they're doing. Showing that you are grateful for them will make them more likely to help you out more often.

Sound therapy can provide relief: Believe it or not, adding more sound to your immediate environment actually does help minimize the misophonic trigger symptoms. By adding more sound, this will help to minimize the intensity of the trigger sound to your brain. Use sounds that are even and steady such as rain, shower, babbling brook, white noise, pink noise, etc. There are many sound relief apps you can find on your Apple App or Google Play Store. Furthermore, you can use sound machines that play various natural soothing sounds. Examples of sound relief apps that could be helpful are: Widex Zen Tinnitus, Resound Relief, Rain Sounds.

Dr. Novick at Silicon Valley Hearing, Inc. can even introduce you to ear-level sound generators that can be worn at the dinner table or in situations that you may be triggered in, to help add more ambient sound to your auditory brain.

Use "positive sound association": This is a way to help lessen your brain’s focus on the sounds that affect you. Prior to the start of mealtime, incorporate various environmental sounds (i.e., rain, shower, waterfalls, crickets, white noise, etc.) along with soft music (i.e., smooth jazz, spa-like music, etc.) to help make the situation more pleasant. You want to focus your attention on those sounds, which can help relax you and shift the brain’s focus away from the trigger sounds. You can also use tactile sensory activities at the table as well to engage another sensory pathway which will also occupy the brain and pull its attention away from the trigger sounds.

Seek people who have had similar experiences: Another way to manage your symptoms is to read about other people's experiences and talk to people online or in person. You might also find some advice on better dealing with your symptoms. You'll also know that you aren't the only one with misophonia, which can be a huge relief. There is a wonderful book, “Regulate, Reason, Reassure: A Guide to Misophonia, written by Jennifer Jo Brout, Psy.D., a psychologist, who has misophonia herself, has a daughter with misophonia, and works with many patients suffering from misophonia. Dr. Brout also hosts coping skills classes online (via https://www.misophoniainternational.com/) for sufferers and their families looking for more education.

Additional resources

Listed below are organizations that keep up to date on the latest information about misphonia.

Knowledge is power in learning about coping strategies to manage misophonia. Misophonia is still a very new condition. Even though it affects you strongly, it doesn't mean that everyone else understands it yet. If you believe that you or your child may be suffering from misophonia, please contact us today to set up a consultation.

Marni Novick, Audiologist in Los Gatos, CA

Dr. Marni Novick

Founder & Audiologist

Marni Novick, AuD, is founder of Silicon Valley Hearing, Inc., which opened its doors in 2014, with the promise of delivering honest and affordable hearing health care, along with exceptional customer service to her valued patients.

About Dr. Novick