What is Misophonia? Basically, it is being extremely sensitive to background sounds that most of the population can ignore. These individuals are unable to block out the offending stimulus (sound), which acts as a “trigger” to an acute negative emotional response by the person due to this sound. One site describes a type of Mysophonia as 4S (Selective Sound Sensitivity), which is a “condition in which a person experiences rage or extreme emotion related to very soft particular sounds, like breathing, chewing, lop or mouth sounds or other very soft noises.” This condition I will have to watch in my 9-year-old son; he has a very hard time at the dinner table listening to others eat.
The theory behind why this happens to certain individuals lies in the limbic system as it controls our emotions and the ANS (autonomic nervous system which controls our bodies) as our auditory system is very connected with the ANS. Aage R. Moller, a Neurologist, believes this condition is hardwired in the person and is not really an auditory disorder but rather a physiological abnormality in the brain. Marsha Johnson, an Audiologist, reported it is not loud sounds that people object to, but rather the softer sounds that set off the emotional response.
This was brought to our attention by a patient who came into the office a few weeks ago. She is a young college student and reported that the sounds going on in the classroom were bothering her so much that she could not follow the instructor, which was interfering with her getting her degree. Her hearing is in the normal range and her uncomfortable loudness level is slightly decreased, so audiologically she did not have any red flags. This is consistent with the research mentioned above. The audiologist in the office contacted other audiologists in her network and came up with the following suggestions for this young woman.
1) Musician’s earplugs: They have filters that can be used to let some frequencies pass through. This idea was more of a last resort since if we deprive our brain of sounds we will never habituate to sounds.
2) Habituation to noise: working on something similar to tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) http://www.tinnitus.org/home/frame/THC1.htm
3) Two audiologists suggested low-end hearing aids with a remote microphone for class. Since your hearing is normal we would set the compression high so they don’t amplify sounds but just stream what goes through the remote mic. The remote mic doesn’t turn everything up for everyone – it would just send a wireless signal (teacher’s voice) directly to you in the hearing aids – improving the signal (speech) to noise (chips, pens clicking, etc) ratio.
4) Talk to a therapist to help you work through the negative associations to sounds. This relates to retraining the brain to positively associate sounds.