Misophonia: People who have misophonia are most commonly annoyed, or even enraged, by such ordinary sounds as other people eating, breathing, sniffing, or coughing; certain consonants; or repetitive sounds. Intense anxiety and avoidant behavior may develop, which can lead to decreased socialization. Some people may feel the compulsion to mimic what they hear

I had no idea this was a *thing*. Apparently I’ve got it. Somehow I doubt that pushing the guy’s face into his bowl of crunchy cereal (so he can *really* get a good taste of it) is a viable prescription.

(Still, it’s a good thought)

People – too many it seems – are completely unaware of their sounds.   The smack-smack-smacking of lips as folk chow down on their copious amounts of popcorn are just so damned unavoidable.  But that’s okay – I enjoy popcorn too, and find a need to chew carefully when I eat it.  Wouldn’t want to inadvertently be the catalyst for a homicidal episode from an overly annoyed fellow patron.

The occupant one stall over in the cubicle farm is completely ignorant of his sounds.  And he has so VERY VERY many of them, and they all start around 10:00 a.m. every day.  The guy starts out with some sort of crunchy cereal – which he consumes with a metal spoon from a ceramic bowl.  I know because I recognize the sounds clearly: the spoon as well as the damned clanky bowl.

When he’s done he apparently has a problem with some of the foodstuffs that don’t make it down his massive gullet – which seem obvious because he suddenly starts up with the teeth-sucking.  Have you ever heard someone sucking their teeth?  It’s amazingly disgusting.   Pfft! Pffffffffffffft!

Then there’s a myriad of other sounds.  Throat-clearing, heavy breathing, coughing.  (I’m guessing he doesn’t swallow normally either – hence the need to clear all of his passages of errant food stuffs.)

Once done, you’d think that would be it wouldn’t you?

Oh but you’d be so very very wrong.  Because you know he has to phone someone.

Home boy doesn’t have a normal voice.  No, his voice is unnecessarily loud.  I don’t mean normal loud.  I mean vibrantly dramatically loud.   And God help us if he hears a joke because boy oh boy – he’s going to LAUGH.  Not a gentle dignified laugh or chuckle either.  An outright guffaw that would raise the dead and cause sheep and cows to snort in alarm.  It’s not a laugh you share either – it’s a laugh that makes you piss yourself and run in fear.

One morning he was so bad that I honestly felt myself going insane.  I wanted to call my boss and talk with him but he was offline.  I wanted to talk with anyone but there was no one around.  I could visualize myself picking up my laptop and throwing it hard across the room.  Honestly – I’ve never felt that way before.

Someone offered me this advice:  “when he starts up, just take a break and go to the washroom.”

My sincere response: “I’m not allowed to spend six hours in the washroom.”

****

You know – there have been many times I’ve found myself hyper-aware of annoying sounds.  Maybe they’re only annoying to me though.  My dad – back when he was still alive – used to hack and cack in the washroom every morning.  He’d do this long dramatic throat clearing, and it would sound as if he was fixin’ to throw up the contents of his cavernous stomach.  Only he’d get so far and then not actually do it.  It was worse than hearing a cat coughing up a hairball.   “HACK HACK *cough* HACK HAAAAAAACK!!!!!”   – long 20 second count – then: “*spit*”

Used to make me almost offer up a sympathy barf.

(Sorry.   I know that’ s disgusting.  Now you know how I feel.)

Just a guess here but….I’ll just bet that this “misophonia” thing is exasperated if you have ADHD.  In that you’re so easily distracted by anything or everything.   So obviously if certain noises unduly annoy you it’s a fair bet that such noises are naturally going to catch your attention at the most inopportune of times.

For a while I was on ADHD meds and these noises didn’t annoy me nearly so much.  I was aware of them – but I was able to concentrate at the task at hand, so the noises became background white noise.  Time passed and I found a need to stop the meds – and the annoyances came back.

What about you?  Is this topic completely new to you – or do you too suffer from this social noise pollution?

Comments
  1. There’s a NAME for that experience? I honestly had no idea and thought I was just being a mean, irritable jerk when I felt that way. Seriously. I am relieved but I’m probably still … well…. irritable. I have to get off transit sometimes. Especially the sound of gum chewing behind me. ACK. Or on one memorable occasion, the metallic, horrible click click click of someone using a fingernail clipper on public transit, seated right behind me. I turned and stared at her aghast, and she stared at me with a “wtf is YOUR problem” look.

    Hi Wolfie! LTNS. Great post.

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Isn’t it great that this is an actual *thing*?? I was pleasantly surprised when I found out, too. When you heard that fingernail clipping going on behind you, I wonder if turning around and saying “mind if I use it after you? I’ve got some errant nose hair I’d like to grab” would have worked. Anything to shock the hell out of them.

      Like

  2. StarkRadio says:

    And even using earphones doesn’t help because I can still hear it. Weird. Only heavy closed-cell headphones block out everything, and those aren’t exactly safe to wear in public.

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Same here. Once you’re aware of that annoying sound it’s like the ONLY thing you can hear isn’t it? I use noise-cancelling inner-ear headphones, which are amazing. But…it’s like my consciousness is still alert for that horrible clanking sound the guy does with his morning cereal. It’s like my sub-conscious is just waiting to say “a-HA! There it is again!” Which when you think about it, is kind of like the guy who steps in dog-poop and then walks over to his friend, poop in hand, saying “look what I stepped in!”.

      Like

    • Rahul says:

      Talking of earphones: Do you feel as if you can hear your own swallowing more when the in-your-ear earphones are plugged in? The same sensation occurs when I plug in my sisters stethoscope once in a while ..

      Like

  3. Mandl says:

    Ugggggghhh. I have a coworker who bites his nails…he sits in the cube next to mine.And many years ago, I had a boss who used a plastic toothpick AT MY DESK to assist him in sucking his teeth. I later found out he was sticking it in a crack in the side of my desk so he could do this activity solely in my office. *gag*
    I am hyper aware of my impact upon the space I occupy and I try to be so quiet, so unoffensive, you don’t even know I am there. How can people be so ignorant of their disgusting sounds!?!? THEY should go to the washroom, if you ask me!! Great post, Wolfie. But EW. :) xo

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Hey Mandl! So great to see you here! Yeah, they should definitely go somewhere else. Can’t believe your boss was such a pig (sorry if he was a nice guy, but that behaviour really sounds piggish to me).

      Like you, I try to keep a low sound output – in *every* respect. Even voice modulation seems important.

      You know what? Since writing this post I’ve suddenly discovered that there’s a whole LOT of articles and discussions about misophonia out there. People for whom certain sounds ignite a harsh reaction. That feeling of wanting to throw my laptop against the wall? I wasn’t exaggerating. The guy in the booth next to me is a nice guy but those SOUNDS. Man, they truly drive me up the wall.

      I always wondered if it was that people weren’t aware of their sounds, or whether I’m hyper-aware of them. I’m beginning to guess the latter might be true – which doesn’t make things one bit better. *grin*

      So glad you stopped by!

      Like

  4. Rahul says:

    I think I had this. But hearing symptoms of any disease makes me feel as if I am possessed by the same.
    The earliest memories of similar suffering was in school when the chalk would squeak against the blackboard. I’d just want to press my fingers into my ears and scream aloud.

    Another one is of the steel spoon against the steel plate in which Dad used to take dinner. He’d not rest until he had wiped the last traces of curry from the plate. And towards the end of the dinner, the spoon would rub, brush, squeak and scream as he polished the plate clean.

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      They describe the condition as a sensitivity – not to all sounds, but just to a select few. And the reaction is characterized as rage. There’s probably a degree of intolerance for many or most of us to certain sounds, but it’s when the sensitivity is so high that the sound becomes unbearable that it becomes a “thing”.

      That sound you describe in your last paragraph would drive me completely nuts. I’m sure of it. : )

      Like

  5. There are a few sounds that send me to the point of screaming buty I keep them to myself, in case people do them just to see me scream.

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Smart move. You know – I always thought it was weird that I would have such a visceral reaction to those sounds while others around me seemed completely oblivious to them. Weird, huh?

      Like

  6. Jack says:

    Yep I’m with you on annoying sounds. My kids go into this heavy breathing thing right near my head whenever they’re concentrating on something. The teeth sucking thing is as major thing for the asian half of my ancestry – go the toothpick I say! I time my wife’s sniffing so I can tell her “you’re sniffing every thirty seconds”.

    I have a co-worker with a clicky jaw. It must have been dislocated or something, but it clicks really loudly when she eats, and she has some kind of gastro intestinal problem because then she starts burping really big burps for the next half hour. But the worst of all is snoring. Snoring drives me absolutely crackers. I actually recorded my wife snoring on my iPhone, then played it back to her. She woke up.

    There is a part of the brain called the RAS. The reticular activation system, that acts as a filter. It filters out stuff we don’t want to pay attention to and allows through stuff we want to know about. It’s this that allows a train to rumble past a house and no-one notices after a while. Maybe for misophones it doesn’t work properly?!

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Fascinating info about the RAS. Maybe you’re right about misophones. I wonder, Jack: once you hear that one annoying sound, is it like your entire body is primed to hear it after that, and so it’s like you are (unwillingly) now super-sensitive to it, just *waiting* for it to show up again?

      Asking because that’s exactly what it’s like for me. The moment I hear it, I can’t not keep hearing it. It’s sort of a weird dichotomy because logically – the last thing you’d want to do is be aware of it and hear it again – and yet you suddenly become hyper-aware of it. Or of the possibility of it.

      I feel your pain on your co-worker’s unfortunate gastrointestinal problems. I know someone just like that: her hubby always thought it was cute how she would come out with these man-sized burps after meals, and they both laughed at it. Fast-forward about ten years, and she’s still doing it, and they’re both still laughing about it, completely oblivious to the disgust on my face.

      The weird thing: that part of the definition of misophonia – where the result is a withdrawing from social circles and events – happens to be true for me as well. I’ll work at the office for as long as I can, knowing full well I’ll have to start working from home again for a few weeks, just to keep sane.

      Like

  7. StarkRadio says:

    Isn’t that interesting what Jack says about the RAS! Hmm…

    Like

    • wolfshades says:

      Sounds like it might be a subset of executive function – which also acts to allow you to “shelve” certain inputs and thoughts, for processing later. Malfunctioning (for want of a better word) executive function is a primary factor in ADHD. Misophonia and ADD might well be related.

      Like

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