Have you ever wondered why you’re so sensitive to sounds? You might be highly sensitive, or you might actually have a lesser-known condition called misophonia.
What Is Misophonia?
Misophonia is a neurological condition characterized by an intense reaction to specific sounds, often referred to as “trigger” sounds. The reactions you feel could be emotional or physical.
And the trigger sounds are often everyday noises that you really can’t avoid such as chewing, slurping, breathing, sniffing, tapping, or rustling. Most people would consider these noises normal. A lot of people wouldn’t even notice them.
But if you have misophonia, such sounds can cause anxiety, distress, and even a feeling of anger or rage, which is why they’re called trigger sounds. Ultimately, this can lead a person with extreme sound sensitivity to want to avoid certain situations or social interactions.
I had an uncle who dealt with sound sensitivity as an older adult. It didn’t bother him so much in his younger years, but later in life, he wore noise-canceling headphones nearly all the time, and had a really difficult time with some of his neighbors.
I’m not sure if my uncle had misophonia. If so, he probably wouldn’t have even thought to look into it, but thankfully more and more people are growing aware of such conditions.
What Causes Misophonia?
At this time, the exact cause of misophonia is not fully understood. Some researchers think it’s related to an abnormal activation of the limbic and autonomic nervous systems. These systems are responsible for regulating emotions and bodily functions.
Others have linked it to childhood or juvenile trauma of some sort. Interestingly, misophonia used to be considered an anxiety disorder.
What Happens When a Person Has Misophonia?
Misophonia can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. Their inability to deal with certain sounds can lead to social isolation, anxiety, and depression. It’s important for people with misophonia or other forms of sound sensitivity to seek support from friends, family, and healthcare professionals. It could start with just letting those closest to you know what you’re dealing with, as misophonia can be a challenging and isolating condition to live with.
Is There a Link between Misophonia and Highly Sensitive People?
There are, understandably, links between highly sensitive people (HSPs) and sound sensitivity, including misophonia.
Highly Sensitive People are individuals who have a greater sensitivity to sensory stimuli, including sounds, sights, smells, and touch. They may experience more intense emotions, feel overwhelmed in busy or chaotic environments, and have a deeper empathy toward others.
Studies have shown that people with misophonia are more likely to be highly sensitive, and that misophonia may be a specific manifestation of high sensory sensitivity.
One theory is that individuals with misophonia have a lower threshold for sensory stimuli, and therefore experience more intense reactions to certain sounds than others. This can be especially true for HSPs, who are often more likely to become overstimulated by environmental factors.
If you identify yourself as a highly sensitive person, you know it’s impossible to just “tune out” some forms of sensory input.
Both misophonia and high sensitivity are associated with heightened emotional reactivity and empathy, which may contribute to the intense emotional response that misophonia sound triggers can elicit.
It’s important to note that while there is a link between misophonia and high sensitivity, not all highly sensitive people experience misophonia, and not all people with misophonia are highly sensitive. Additionally, misophonia is a distinct condition that involves specific triggers and symptoms and is not simply a result of general sensory sensitivity.
How Can I Get Help for Misophonia?
Although there is no cure for misophonia, there are various coping strategies that can help alleviate symptoms, such as avoiding trigger sounds, using earplugs or headphones, and seeking therapy.
Whether you’re dealing with high sensitivity and have identified yourself as a highly sensitive person, or you’re dealing with misophonia or a combination of the two, there are some natural methods that can help assist you in your day-to-day life.
That said, you might also consider seeking professional help from a healthcare provider if you are having a hard time coping with your sound sensitivities. The methods listed below should not be considered professional help and are merely suggestions from a nonprofessional.
These natural remedies and coping strategies may help alleviate symptoms and assist in managing misophonia and hearing sensitivity:
- Noise-cancelling headphones: These headphones can help block out trigger sounds and create a more peaceful environment. They are particularly helpful in noisy public places or situations where it’s difficult to escape triggering sounds.
- Mindfulness and relaxation techniques: Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, which in turn can alleviate misophonic reactions.
- Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being, which can help individuals with misophonia cope better with triggers.
- Dietary changes: Some people with misophonia find that certain foods or substances, such as caffeine or sugar, can exacerbate their symptoms. Keeping a food diary and eliminating or reducing the intake of trigger foods may be helpful.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy can help individuals with misophonia reframe their negative thoughts and emotions related to trigger sounds, and develop coping strategies to manage their reactions.
It’s important to note that what works for one person with misophonia may not work for another, so it may take some experimentation to find the right combination of remedies and coping strategies that work best for each individual.
Again, seeking support from a healthcare professional or a support group can also be helpful in managing misophonia and hearing sensitivity.