Do certain noises drive you crazy? You may have a health disorder.

Imagine sitting down with a friend or loved one for a nice meal and not being able to tune out the sounds of their chewing. The sound sends you into a state of uncontrolled annoyance, provoking anxiety and anger. These are the symptoms of misophonia, also known as “selective sound sensitivity syndrome,” which is a condition categorized by extreme reactions to sounds, especially those from chewing, breathing or whistling.

According to Misophonia Online, some of the common triggers of the syndrome include:

  • Mouth and eating: “Ahhs” after drinking, burping, chewing, crunching (ice or other hard food), gulping, gum chewing and popping, kissing sounds, nail biting, silverware scraping teeth or a plate, slurping, sipping, licking, smacking, spitting, swallowing, talking with food in mouth, tooth brushing, flossing, tooth sucking, lip smacking, grinding teeth, throat clearing and jaw clicking.
  • Breathing/nasal: Grunting, groaning, loud or soft breathing, sniffling, snorting, snoring, sneezing, congested breathing, hiccups, yawning, nose whistling and wheezing.
  • Vocal: Humming, muffled talking, raspy voices, nasally voices, overused or repeated words such as “um” or “ah,” sibilant sounds (S, P, T, CH, K and B sounds), bad singing, gravelly voices, soft whisper-like voices and whistling.
  • Moving body parts: Restless legs that keep moving, making tapping or swishing sounds, or fingers that tap endlessly
  • Environmental: Clicking from texting, keyboard/mouse, TV remote or pen clicking, writing sounds, papers rustling/ripping, ticking clocks, texting and cell phone ringtone.
  • Utensils/metals: Dishes clattering, fork scraping teeth, silverware hitting plates or other silverware, and rattling change in pockets.
  • Plastic: Water bottle squeezing/crinkling, breaking hard plastic and bouncing balls.
  • Wrappers: Plastic bags crinkling/rustling, plastic bags opening or being rubbed, and crinkling food packages.
  • Cars: Sitting idle for long periods of time, beep when car is locked, car doors slamming, keys banging against steering column and turn signal clicking.
  • Heavy equipment: Lawnmowers, leaf blowers, air conditioners and chainsaws.
  • Impact sounds: Other people’s voices, muffled bass music or TV through walls, doors/windows being slammed and basketball thumps.
  • Animal noises: Dogs barking, bird sounds, crickets, frogs, dogs or cats licking, drinking, slurping, eating, whining, dogs scratching or biting themselves, and claws tapping.
  • Baby: Crying, babbling, adults using baby talk and kids yelling.
  • TV: Loud TV or radio.

It is not clear whether or not misophonia is a true disorder and disagreement exists among experts. However,  a recent study published by Current Biology used MRI scans to show that brains of people with misophonia reacted differently to “trigger sounds,” caused by an abnormality in the part of the brain that manages emotions.

“Those suffering from misophonia may have to make adjustments to their everyday lives in order to function,” said Dr. Nitin Tandon, a neurosurgeon affiliated with the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and professor in the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “They might not like to go out to restaurants, or they could end up secluding themselves from friends and family. While there isn’t a cure for the disorder, we can help our patients to manage it.”

Currently, treatments may include sound therapy or psychological counseling. However, your lifestyle can also contribute to the severity of the condition. Getting plenty of exercise and sleep, as well as managing stress can improve reactions.

If you think you may be suffering from misophonia, schedule an appointment to get screened here or call 713.704.7100.

Comments

  1. I feel like my brain will explode when someone sucks air through their teeth. Everyone I know thinks it’s not normal. But that sound drives me insane, it’s like torture.

  2. I can’t stand much of theses noises , since kid this just make me lose the control, like once i tried to help in a preparation for a party , and they had this balloons and plastic’s i couldn’t even move close , the feeling was telling me to smash my head against the wall , but seems the rest of the people there was just enjoying all ..or when i go to a restaurant , if i focus on someone becomes a challenge to eat cuz of noises too .

  3. I have this! Not all but enough. I am a kindergarten teacher and when it is snack time and all the wrappers of snacks are going I feel like I am going to come out of my skin. And don’t let me here some body chewing! Oh my!

  4. I actually could have written all the comments I’ve read. I wish I could get my family and friends to realize I’m not the only one who has this. I have AT LEAST one symptom in each catagory except Cars and Heavy-machinery. God bless you all.

  5. I think I have a mild mild case of this. The sound of silverware loudly hitting other silverware, china, or other surfaces makes me go stiff and anxious. I’m supposed to go to the kitchen to wash dishes but I heard my mom put plates and silverware away loudly so I retreated to my room.

  6. Can a TBI cause this condition ?
    I wasn’t like this before being in a near fatal MVA.
    Now sometimes I feel like I am going insane with it.
    My family thinks I am just nitpicking and they make fun of of me. But they have no idea how much this affects me.
    I feel like I am going to explode. I plug my ears, I leave the room, all I can hear is the noises coming from that person. Chewing, teeth hitting, breathing, their jaws, then the dogs the chewing , licking their paws, even waking me up in the middle of the night because I can hear them licking their paws, or I can hear my husband chewing and hitting his teeth in his sleep.
    In church people messing with wrappers.
    In theaters or plays people whispering.
    Background noises.
    Lately I have just been crying over it out of frustration because I can’t say anything. My family thinks I just can’t stand being around them when they eat or breathe.
    The sad thing is they are right.
    Usually its just irritating but sometimes its so overwhelming that my heart races and I feel angry and overwhelmed.
    I never remember feeling like this before my wreck.

  7. For as long as I can remember I have suffered with this without knowing it had a name. I remember it vividly from my days in a college dorm where noises would make me crazy (tv, stereos, walking) then shortly after when I got into apartments the noise from others would drive me nuts. This followed me into my adulthood. I am living in what I feel is hell in what should be a wonderful place to be -top rated town and sidewalks and big trees…but I’m next door to this man who blares his outdoor speakers all day long while he works in the yard. Once it is hot outside, his a/c which has been malfunctioning for years will put me into a rage for months -it is so loud. We are in a suburban area but it is more urban -houses super close together -why in the world would anyone feel it is ok to do this -to blare outdoor speakers when we are literally on top of each other? Smoke is also making me furious -everyone with their 100 year old chimneys burning wood and now we have moved into the season for fire pits (imagine less than 5 feet between houses in Mt. Lebanon, PA -look it up – near the urban centers). My neighbors are furious with me because I complain about smoke (even though I have a child with severe asthma) that I cannot even mention the noise. Today it was particularly bad -I get so upset that someone could be this inconsiderate in general but especially during a pandemic where sick people need to rest, essential workers who work shifts need their rest, kids are home schooling and tons of people are working from home. I got so stressed out today I was crying and causing self harm. There is no escape from this. Every day I wait for the music to start and then I know the rest of my day will be hell as it won’t stop for hours. I recorded it today outside and texted a friend -they agreed it was ridiculous so I’m not being overly sensitive but this has been an issue I have struggled with in addition to trichotillomania. I just pray for some peace.

  8. I suffer from all above symptoms.
    Neighbours up stairs thumping, loud voices from downstairs neighbors, loud car stereos, there is a constant basketball game being played by kids in our shared courtyard, loud chewing or mouth food noises, plastic wrappers, video game button clicking, etc etc etc.
    It drives me nuts to where I have to complain to my landlord ( I’m sure they are being driven nuts from my complaining) and my wife gets annoyed by me when I start complaining about the noises.
    I’ve tried to get psychological counselling but my doctors don’t believe me and mental health counseling goes absolutely nowhere.
    I have high anxiety and high stress levels as well as a major depressive disorder.
    Sometimes I want to ram chopsticks into my eardrums to make the world go silent.

  9. I believe I may have misophonia. I have always been overly sensitive to certain sounds. As I have gotten older, this has gotten much worse it seems. It’s as though I no longer have a way to filter out the noises. If someone is talking to me and there is noise in the background like a TV, people talking, traffic noise, noise from lawn equipment, children yelling, etc. I am unable to focus on what the person is saying. This is causing problems for me at work. I am a nurse and work in a very busy, face-paced department. I can hardly tolerate background noises like co-workers’ discussions, doors closing and opening, phones ringing, etc. There are times when I get agitated, angry, anxious, and have to stop the sounds or I have to leave the area. I am interested in learning more about this disorder and treatment for this if any.

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Tashika Varma