“Crunch, crunch, munch.”
Deep breathe in. It’s not their fault they’re eating like a monkey that hasn’t been fed for a week.
“Crunch, crunch, MUNCH.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake will you just shut up!!!
Welcome to the world of misophonia*. Miso-what-now? Misophonia, or Selective Sound Sensitivity, is a strong emotional reaction to sound, more specifically, a type of sound. And the type of sound and the reaction can be different for different people. For me, other people chewing triggers rage, a lot of rage, but I rarely act on it, other than the odd tut; I am British after all!
Sounds that can trigger someone with misophonia are normally manmade, are something voluntary (think chewing loudly not farting), and to me, they are often prolonged or reoccurring noises (such as sniffing or regularly clearing your throat). Hearing these sounds wakes up your fight or flight response and your body reacts, either through rage, disgust or anxiety. I’m mainly a rage or disgust person – that probably says a lot about me as a person!
Sounds that trigger a response from me include (but are not limited to):
- Chewing (the big one for me)
- Someone clearing phlegm from their throat
- Rustling crisp packets (or similar packaging)
- Jingling coins in your pocket – Mum I’m looking at you!
There’s very little research into the causes or prevalence of misophonia. According to the American Tinnitus Association, 4-5% of people with tinnitus experience some form of misophonia. A recent study suggested that as many as 49.1% of the population suffer from some form of the condition. That’s almost half the planet getting annoyed at the other half for eating or sniffing!
Speak to those close to you
So, if you get angry, disgusted or anxious at certain sounds what can you do about it?
Rather than tutting, or worse, it really does help to speak to those around you. Explain that this reaction is no one’s fault, it is just a reaction. Now when my husband is eating near me he will put on some music or the tv, something that masks the sound he is making.
It can be a bit more difficult when you are out and about. I’ve never turned to the person chomping and slurping next to me on the train and said, “Do you mind not doing that, I find it disgusting.” It would be an interesting experiment though.
My solutions to this are:
- Don’t sit there in silent rage, move away from the source of the noise if you can.
- Invest in noise-cancelling headphones – I always thought these were a bit of a con until I was given a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 (link not affiliated) and they changed my world for the better.
It’s also worth a chat with your GP if you find that your misophonia is affecting your life. Be aware that many health professionals probably haven’t heard of misophonia, but they should still be able to direct you to your local audiology department or hearing therapist.
For more on misophonia check out the British Tinnitus Association website.
*Misophonia is different from hyperacusis. People with hyperacusis have heightened sensitivity to certain sounds and can feel pain when exposed to them, rather than having an emotional response. Watch this space for a post on hyperacusis.