Misophonia is a condition where people experience a negative emotional reaction and dislike (e.g., anxiety, agitation, and annoyance) to specific sounds (e.g., ballpoint pen clicking (repeatedly), tapping, typing, chewing, breathing, swallowing, tapping a foot, etc.) While these are considered as normal sounds to most, it might act as a trigger for anger and rage for a few.
Misophonia is, therefore, a very subjective response and hyper-sensitivity to certain sounds. Phonophobia is a type of Misophonia, when someone is scared of a specific sound. So, while fear is the dominant emotion in Phonophobia, anger is the dominant emotion in Misophonia. In addition, people with Misophonia also display other emotions like irritation, stress and anxiety, aggravation, feeling trapped, and impatience.
Misophonia is common but rarely known
Misophonia is not considered a rare disease but it is a ‘rarely known’ disease. It was identified and treated, for the first time, in 1990 and the term Misophonia was coined as recently as 2002. This condition is common and people suffering from tinnitus or hyperacusis may also have Misophonia. Some people who are extremely sensitive to smell, light or even touch may have high sensitivities of particular sounds as well. Children within the autistic spectrum have been found to display Misophonic symptoms.
Misophonia usually develops during childhood or early adolescence. The feeling of anger or rage appears suddenly or after an emotional incident. Very often, people misunderstand and don’t realize that it is because of a hearing problem.
It is important to point out that usually everyone has a dislike of any particular sound, but it can be categorized as a condition only when it severely affects the persons’ quality of life.
Doctors have argued that Misophonia is either a psychological or an auditory condition or both. In 2012, experts suggested that this condition is a particular form of DST (decreased sound tolerance). This means it can be associated with the broader medical diagnostic categories of abnormal auditory perception and/or hyperacusis.
However, doctors still believe that Misophonia is not specific to the inner ear, but a combination of different parts of the brain that controls hearing, memory, balance and other reflexes.
Misophonia Testing and Treatment
If you suffer from Misophonia, doctors would use a multidisciplinary treatment approach. They begin with counselling and focus on regular progress. They prefer the family members to get involved as well because family interaction might be a trigger for Misophonia.
Psychologists may help with treatment if necessary, since behavioral therapy plays an important part in treatment.
Misophonia symptoms are found in people with other conditions
Below is a long list of conditions where patients display symptoms of Misophonia. It shows that Misophonia is not always a stand-alone phenomenon, but rather a combination of other psychological, developmental, or neurological conditions.
A few of the conditions are:
• Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
• Autism spectrum disorder or Asperger's syndrome
• Multi-sensory hypersensitivity
• Hearing loss
• Family relational problems
• Intermittent explosive disorder (IED)
• Tonic tensor tympani Syndrome (TTTS)
• Acoustic shock
• Major depressive disorder
• Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia
• Bell’s palsy
• Ramsay Hunt syndrome
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
• Superior canal dehiscence syndrome
• Perilymph fistula
• Lyme disease
• Williams syndrome
• Lacunar stroke
• Narcotic and benzodiazepine withdrawal
• Head injury
Coping with Misophonia
There is no medicine to treat Misophonia. However, there are several effective options available to manage this condition:
1. Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) – this therapy is widely available, especially in auditory clinics. It is a way to teach the brain to tolerate specific sounds that affect you.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – This therapy focuses on altering the negative associations you have with triggering noises. Studies have shown that this therapy is very effective for most people with Misophonia symptoms
3. Counseling – You and your family can benefit from counseling sessions with a psychotherapist.
Thankfully, Dr. Allen Rohe of Tinnitus and Hearing Center of Arizona is a qualified audiologist that treats patients with Misophonia. You can read more about his approach to Misophonia here.
If you or someone you know suffer from Misophonia, we encourage you to contact us to set up an initial consultation to discuss misophonia treatment. Dr. Rohe can conduct consultations either in his Tempe, AZ office, or online via Skype teleconference.
Palumbo, D. B., Alsalman, O., De Ridder, D., Song, J. J., & Vanneste, S. (2018). Misophonia and Potential Underlying Mechanisms: A Perspective. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 953. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00953
Dr. Rohe is a nationally-recognized audiologist specializing in Tinnitus Therapy and other hearing conditions.