Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, starts with a trigger. It’s often an oral sound — the noise someone makes when they eat, breathe, chew, yawn, or whistle. Sometimes a small repetitive motion is the cause — someone fidgets, jostles you, or wiggles their foot.
The literal definition of misophonia is hatred of sound but a person with misophonia does not simply hate all sound. People with misophonia have specific symptoms and triggers and are sensitive to only certain sounds (and occasionally to visual triggers). Any sound can become a problem to a person with misophonia but most are some kind of background noise. People call the collection of sounds that they’re sensitive to their trigger set. It is possible to add to one’s trigger set over time.
List of common triggers
Please note, some people find that reading about triggers has the potential to make them take on new triggers. Some people also avoid hearing or imagining sample trigger sounds for the same reason. If you think that learning about new trigger sounds could in any way be a problem for you, then there’s no need to read the lists below.
Mouth and Eating: “ahhs” after drinking, burping, chewing, crunching (ice or other hard food), gulping, gum chewing and popping, kissing sounds, nail biting, silverware scraping teeth or a plate, slurping, sipping, licking, smacking, spitting, sucking (ice, etc), swallowing, talking with food in mouth, tooth brushing, flossing, tooth sucking, lip smacking, wet mouth sounds, grinding teeth, throat clearing and jaw clicking.
Breathing/Nasal: grunting, groaning, screaming, loud or soft breathing, sniffling, snorting, snoring, sneezing, loud or soft talking, raspy voices, congested breathing, hiccups, yawning, nose whistling and wheezing.
Vocal: humming, muffled talking, nasally voices, overused words such as um or ah (repeated words), sibilant sounds (S, P, T, CH, K, B sounds), singing, gravelly voices, bad singing, soft whisper-like voices and whistling.
Environmental: clicking from texting, keyboard/mouse, TV remote, pen clicking, writing sounds, papers rustling/ripping, ticking clocks, texting and cell phone ringtone.
Utensils/metals: dishes clattering, fork scraping teeth, silverware hitting plates or other silverware and rattling change in pockets.
Plastic: water bottle squeezing/crinkling, breaking hard plastic and bouncing balls.
Wrappers: plastic bags crinkling/rustling, plastic bags opening or being rubbed and crinkling food packages.
Cars: sitting idling for long periods of time, beep when car is locked, car doors slamming, keys banging against steering column and turn signal clicking.
Heavy equipment: lawnmowers, leaf blower, air conditioners and chain saws.
Impact sounds: other people’s voices, muffled bass music or TV through walls, doors/windows being slammed and basketball thumps.
Animal noises: dogs barking, bird sounds, crickets, frogs, dogs or cats licking, drinking, slurping, eating, whining, dogs scratching themselves and trying to bite their fleas and claws tapping.
Baby: Baby crying, babbling, adults using baby talk and kids yelling.
TV: loud TV or radio.
Body Movement related: Foot shuffling (dry feet on floor/carpet) or tapping, finger snapping, foot dragging, heels, flip flops, knuckle/joint cracking, eye blinking, nail biting and clipping, eating, chewing, fidgeting, hair twirling, movements out of the corner of eyes, repetitive foot or body movements, jaw chewing/movement.
If you have a mild reaction, you might feel:
- The urge to flee
If your response is more severe, the sound in question might cause:
- Emotional distress
- A desire to kill or stop whatever is making the noise
- Skin crawling
- Suicidal thoughts
This lifelong condition usually starts between the ages of 9 and 13 and is more common with girls. It comes on quickly, but isn’t related to any one event.
Because your ears are normal and your hearing is OK, the doctor may have trouble with a diagnosis. Misophonia is sometimes mistaken for anxiety or bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some doctors think it should be classified as a new disorder.
Medical Professionals That Can Help
An audiologist may help by evaluating whether a person has misophonia or some other audiological issue. Audiologists can suggest the use of earplugs and fit them to an individual. These can be made to supply white noise or other sounds to mask problem noises.
Psychologists can help people by evaluating and studying behavior and mental processes. A plan for reducing stress and coping with the symptoms of misophonia could be developed by a psychologist familiar with the condition.
A psychiatrist is a medical practitioner specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. Although misophonia is not thought to be a psychiatric condition, psychiatrists can prescribe medication to treat symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, feelings of rage/fear, and depression.
Changes in sensory perception can be evaluated by a neurologist.
An occupational therapist may help with assessing treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or cognitive disorder.