Misophonia is the hatred of sound.
I suffer from a condition that is very rare, with fewer than 200,000 cases per year. Although rare, I’ll bet you all can relate because you either have it yourself or know someone who does. It’s called Misophonia and its literal definition is ‘hatred of sound’. It’s more complex than that and sufferers seem to be on a spectrum. I’m somewhere in the middle, where it affects my daily life, but is not extremely life-altering.
We all may have a sound that is extremely annoying: nails on a chalkboard, someone slurping their soup or a bag of chips being opened in an otherwise quiet environment. What separates the ‘normal’ people from those with Misophonia is the reaction to that triggering sound. A normal reaction would include rolling your eyes, asking someone to stop or perhaps a slightly louder, angrier request. A reaction from me when these things happen is panic, anger and sometimes rage. Worse than that is my inability to focus on anything except the sound. I cannot function when triggered.
With Misophonia, the sounds cause an atypical emotional response to the affected person. Other people, often the offending party, find this response totally blown out of proportion.
Let Me Set the Scene
I’m sitting at the kitchen counter typing away, and my husband walks up behind me and says “What are you up to?”, then, proceeds to crunch the crunchiest apple in all of history. Immediately, my body tenses up, I turn around and give him the death glare. He’s thinking “What? I’m just wondering what you’re up to.” Because I know it’s unreasonable, I feel bad, but the feeling of anger consumes me. I leave the room until he finishes that damn apple.
Often, those with Misophonia have triggers that are sounds that humans simply must make: chewing, sniffling, throat-clearing, or even breathing! Other triggers may be sounds that PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER DO: tapping their fingernails in a quiet room, jostling loud papers in a quiet environment, or snapping their gum. Please, do not do these. Ever.
Misophonia and Moms
Because Misophonia ranges from mild to severe, there’s quite a range of triggers and responses. I’ve heard of some people never eating dinner with their family. Others will not even apply for an office job because they can’t focus on any work while their co-workers tap, chomp or sniff away. Some female sufferers have asked whether they should have children because they’re worried that their own beloved child will enrage them with all of their sucking and crying and wiggling. The struggle is that real.
The odd part about this disorder is that those who have it are subconsciously ‘selective’ about what causes the trigger. For example, many moms with misophonia would attest that for some reason, their OWN children do not trigger them (until age 4 or so). This was the case for me as I can’t remember any of my kids triggering me with their should-have-been-triggering sounds.
What is upsetting to me is that when affected, I am crazed and enraged and that is someone I don’t want to be in the presence of my husband and kids. My limiting belief is that I run the risk of being a perpetually unhappy person for the rest of my life because I cannot escape this affliction.
The Misophonia Community
Once I joined a community of Misophonia sufferers, I got some perspective. It’s where I realized some suffer so much worse than me. There was talk of depression and suicide. I also learned about some coping skills that while not always polite, are sometimes effective. I find my two best strategies are wearing noise-canceling earbuds and avoidance.
I purchased Apple’s Airpod Pro earbuds last fall and they’ve been a godsend. Not only do they fit in my small ears, they have two modes: transparency and noise-canceling. The noise-canceling setting is great for public places where I most often encounter offending sounds. But transparency mode is good for my non-Misophonia needs (basically they’re like other earbuds). They can even be discreet if I wear my hair down.
I Will Have Misophonia for the Rest of My Life
I’m strategic about not putting myself in triggering situations. I sneak off to my room if there are sounds I’d rather not hear in the kitchen. I may say no to a social event if I feel it will be too much. I will even avoid interacting with certain people (rest in peace, Aunt Mary) unless we’re at a location that will provide a lot of background noise.
I will have Misophonia for the rest of my life. I control it the best way I know how, but I’m hopeful I won’t always be the panicked, angry witch Misophonia causes me to be. If you know someone who suffers, hopefully, this story will cause you to be more sympathetic, knowing they don’t mean to be hurtful. If we’re together and you’re cracking your gum, I may have earbuds in. And if you’re in a public place, take note of the offending noises above and perhaps you will make a Misophonia sufferer very grateful.