What is misophonia?
Misophonia is a condition that results in a strong reaction to selective sounds and noises. The name and definition of misophonia derive from the latin words miso (hatred) and phonia (sound). It is not to be confused with hyperacusis where sound is perceived as abnormally loud or physically painful. Hyperacusis and misophonia are both disorders related to “decreased sound tolerance”.
However, hyperacusis is a condition in which auditory information is unbearably loud. In misophonia, it is repeating (or patterned) sound which are intolerable.
Individuals with misophonia are set off or “triggered” by very specific patterned sounds, such as chewing, coughing, pencil tapping, sneezing etc.
What causes misophonia?
Misophonia is a neurological disorder in which auditory (and sometimes visual) stimuli are misinterpreted within the central nervous system. It is assumed that the cause for misophonia lies not in the ears but in a dysfunction of the central auditory system in the brain. However, a lot about misophonia and its causes is still something of a mystery.
Although people may have suffered from sound sensitivity and misophonia for many years, it has only been recognised as a medical condition since the 1990's.
What are the symptoms of misophonia?
The symptoms of misophonia - strong reactions to selective sounds - often appear in late childhood but its onset can be seen at any age. It usually starts with a single trigger-sound. More sounds and noises are then added to the list of triggers. The reactions to such trigger-sounds can range from avoidance to irritation, panic or even anger and aggression.
Is there a misophonia test?
Do you have misophonia? Is there a test to find out if someone has the condition? The short answer is no – it’s not that easy. Misophonia is best identified by the individual’s reactions to certain sounds. Individualised test and checks can be carried out by the family doctor or by other professionals. If a person has a strong reaction to certain sounds, he or she might suffer from misophonia. We all have certain sounds that we don’t like or react to without having misophonia, but some people react very strongly. Therefore, it is always a good idea to talk to a professional to discuss whether the strong reactions to sounds might be misophonia.
Treatment of misophonia
Currently, there is no cure or treatment for misophonia. Your doctor can however refer you to different kinds of therapy. While these are not misophonia treatments per se, they can help you significantly to learn how to live with misophonia. Even just talking about your condition might be helpful.
Living with misophonia
While some try to mask the trigger-sounds with music, others simply try to avoid them. Depending on the severity, misophonia can have serious consequences for the wellbeing of the patient. The condition might keep them from building relationships, engaging in social activities or even leaving the house.
People suffering from misophonia often feel alienated and misunderstood because others might write them off as hysterical or overly sensitive. Often it helps to see a doctor to get a diagnosis as proof that you are not just making it up.