When the little noises bother you

November 9, 2016 by Kathia Faust
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Do you identify with these quotes? Some people can’t tolerate specific sounds in their environment, not because the sounds are too loud or make conversation difficult, but because the person subconsciously associates the sound with something unpleasant, which causes them to dislike it. This is called misophonia, or the “hatred of sound.”

Trigger sounds

These sounds, which are generally ignored by most people, can cause strong, negative reactions in people with misophonia. The person may feel irritated, disgusted, anxious, angry, or enraged. Although people with misophonia are usually aware that their reactions are excessive and unreasonable, their impulses are often uncontrollable or even automatic. According to Dr. Jastreboff, a renowned expert on tinnitus and hyperacusis, misophonia is when our brain makes a bad association between a specific sound and something unpleasant.

Most of the time (82% of cases), the hated sounds are produced by a specific person we know, so this issue can have a major impact on the daily lives of people with misophonia, who will often try to avoid situations where they could be confronted by their trigger. They might even become hypervigilant and react strongly even if the sound is made in another room, or they anticipate the sound.

Misophonia and therapy

In many cases, misophonia can be linked with psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder. An interdisciplinary approach that includes psychotherapy is commonly used to treat the issue. Currently, the most effective treatments generally involve desensitizing the person with misophonia through repetitive, controlled exposure to triggering stimuli in a comfortable environment so the person can alter their automatic negative associations.

Using noise generators can also help distract the mind, providing short-term relief so the person can resume their daily activities.

Although the term “misophonia” has only recently entered the scientific sphere, the issue is very real and has been around for a long time. It’s important to talk about it, because the simple act of explaining and demystifying the phenomenon can sometimes provide relief for people who suffer from it.

For more information about misophonia, consult an audiologist.

EDELSTEIN et al., “Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions.” 2013.
JASTREBOFF, P. J. and HAZELL, J., “Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: Implementing the Neurophysiological Model.” 2004.
TIDBALL, Glynnis, “Hyperacusis and misophonia.” CAA 2014 conference.