As many of you know, I’m not the most talkative in my University classes, so I thought I’d talk about something more personal to me in this blog post.
Loud crunching, lip smacking whilst eating, tapping really loud on a keyboard, snoring and even breathing heavily. Most of these sounds would probably get rather annoying to anybody after a while. For me, however, the majority of these sounds are completely and instantly unbearable.
Misophonia, which is also known as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome, or Hyperacusis is a condition in which everyday sounds cause significant distress, affecting a person’s day-to-day activities.
According to the NHS the condition can vary quite a lot. For example, some people find loud noises uncomfortable, some find certain smaller noises particularly annoying, some people can even develop a fear of certain noises and experience physical pain when hearing them.
I’d say that I experience moderate reactions to many of these noises; I often start to get uncomfortable and struggle to focus. It sometimes also causes me distress and sometimes even anger. Those shorthand exams, with the typing of the keyboards really throw me off focus, to the point that I cannot even think about what I am trying to write. I am fortunate, however, that I do not experience any pain or anxiety from these noises.
It is hard to explain the way that the sounds can make you feel. It isn’t a simple “Ugh, that is so annoying”; it is more of a “MAKE IT STOP NOW” feeling. An instant reaction that physically cannot be controlled. The sounds just need to stop straight away, no matter what it takes.
One of the most frustrating things about the condition, is that there is no cure. There is no end in sight. The actual cause of Misophonia is unknown, and those who suffer from it have no other obvious problems alongside it. Often, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is suggested as a way to change the way that people think about the troublesome noises to reduce stress and change the way you behave in response to them, but more is needed than that.
A report, released in February 2017 by lead author Sukhbinder Kumar, found that the symptoms of Misophonia start early in life whilst the brain is still developing. The mean age of onset is 12 years old and can even be as early as 5 years. The team also studied the heart rate of 20 misophonic people against the same number of people without the condition. Figure A (left) shows how the heart rate of those with Misophonia increases rapidly within the space of 2-5 seconds when trigger sounds, such as tapping or loud chewing, were heard. This rapid increase of the heart rate steadied after 5 seconds but didn’t begin to reduce until at least 5 seconds after the trigger sounds stopped.
For me, different trigger sounds cause different reactions, and this is also dependent on where I am and who I am with at that specific time. Sat in class, keyboard typing is bearable, yet sat in a silent library, the sound is unbearable unless I can drown it out with my own typing. I can find loud crunching of food bearable around people I have only known for a short while; yet if people who I am comfortable with do the same, it is unbearable yet again.
For some, Misophonia can really affect day-to-day life. Those with more serious cases of the condition can struggle to keep a job because of the issues caused with keyboard typing; others can’t stay in a long-term relationship because they literally cannot bear the way their partner eats their food or snores at night.
The condition isn’t fully recognised either, although the NHS has started to look further into it. Some would argue, however, that this is a genuine mental condition which can be incredibly debilitating for those who are forced to live with it for the rest of their lives. I am hopeful that some advances can be made for the condition to become more widely recognised. This would at least put an end to the “get over it” mentality that those closest to people suffering with the condition may have.
Anyway, some of the first years are eating REALLY LOUD on the other side of the newsroom and it is driving me insane. I think I’ll wrap this up here. The video below shows a more severe case of Misophonia and proves just how difficult it can be for misophonic’s to cope with the simplest of noises.