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When Certain Sounds Trigger Negative Thoughts, Emotions and Physical Reactions

It’s a neurological condition called misophonia, or sound-rage, and it affects around 15% of adults. Learn about its effects and how to cope with it.



What is Misophonia and how can it be treated? That's our topic today on Ask The Hearing Doctors.




Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy and this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors. The Washington DC area's highest rated audiology practice with over 1,500 five-star reviews. Wendy as always great to see you. You too. So misophonia, um, reading about it and looking at it. It's scary. Let's start with just what is it, what is misophonia?


So it is a condition. Um, it typically begins in childhood, um, where someone is has a lot of sensitivity to everyday sounds. Most of the, most common ones are like, um, chewing or repetitive motions, like tapping of a pen, or, you know, tapping your feet. People with this condition, get, you know, really extreme emotional reactions to hearing those sounds.


Is it louder in their ear than it would be for somebody that doesn't suffer from misophonia? Or how does that work?


I think what happens is it seems louder to that patient because they have such a strong negative reaction to that sound. Wow.


Does it hurt? I mean, is there a, is there a physical pain?


Not typically.. Um, some patients with this also have other conditions called one of them's a hypeacusiss, which I know we'll talk about later, um, where it's just sensitivity to loud sounds. So it's just an overall sensitivity to certain specific sounds.


What are some of the reactions when somebody has misophonia and they're hearing some of these noises, whether it's chewing or water running or whatever it is that that bothers them, what are some of the reactions that you see?


So a lot of times they'll feel extreme anger, anxiety, depression, just overall sadness. It's, it's really sad to see that and, you know, see those patients that are dealing with that and having them talk about what their reactions are to this.


I can only imagine how this must affect a family. Um, now you said it's tip, it's more common in children, but it, it does happen in adults. Yeah. And so if you're, if you're at work and, and, and what that could, could lead to.


Yeah, I mean, I've had, you know, some families that, um, you know, one, they have three children, one of their middle child has it very severely, and they actually had to rent two separate apartments. Because the child with the misophonia could not sit at the dinner table with the other family members. It would become an extreme anger issue. And it was almost a, uh, a safety concern for the other children. Um, I've have a lot of, you know, families also with this that are dealing with, you know, they, their children were not able to go to public schools. So they had be pulled out to be homeschooled because all those sounds around them are very difficult to control.


Is, is misophonia one of those things that's, that's hard to diagnose.


I think it's, um, usually you notice that something's different. Um, but there's not a lot of research out there. So I think a lot of times patients or their families, um, just don't know exactly what to do or what it is, or I think a lot of times it becomes, um, an improper diagnosis of autism or sensitivity issues and it's not that, it's very different.


I'm just trying to, you know, all of a sudden, you might be trying to, or a Dr. may be saying, Oh, well, it's autism, or it's ADHD and treating the person one way, which might be the wrong thing to do. Exactly. Yeah. How do you get over that? How do you where does that final decision come in and say, Hey, wait a minute. This, this isn't what we think it is, it's misophonia. Yeah.


I think a lot of it has to do with the family members or the parents, if they're advocating for, you know, I'm going to say their child or whoever it is that has this. Um, you know, I have a couple of my patients that have been advocates for me as well, you know, there's support groups. And they talk about, you know, that I see a lot of, you know, patients with this, not a lot of audiologists are familiar with this condition. Um, and so we're trying to get a lot of information out there, cause I don't want any family member to go down a wrong diagnosis and that can lead to other conditions you know down the road.


So if you're seeing signs like this in your children or in an adult, you should probably contact an audiologist in addition to your regular doctor, perhaps.


Yeah. And I would, you know, the best thing is, ask the audiologists, are you familiar with this? Because it's a very rare condition that not many are very, you know, you know, comfortable with dealing or knowing exactly what to do to help that family member. Does it go away? Not typically, um, usually we find different ways to help you manage and, you know, kind of be able to control those negative reactions. That's really what we do is kind of working on your reaction to it. So a lot of times we'll team up with a psychologist to kind of go through those emotions and being able to handle those situations.


How does somebody cope with miso, misophonia? I, I just, I can't, I'm just trying to wrap my head around if I had this, this issue, uh, how do you deal with that on a daily basis?


So as far as, um, treatment or management, um, that we do here, at Hearing Doctors is we do a lot of masking devices. So ear level devices that can play either a static or musical tones in the ear. So it helps them kind of focus on another sound that's more pleasant versus maybe, you know, my little brother's chewing and it's driving me crazy. You know, they can listen to something else and it kind of helps their brain kind of calm down.


And this is beyond the little brother being an irritant. Exactly. This is, yeah. You know, a


step up from that. Right.


You mentioned a moment ago, not a lot of research, so I'm assuming not a cure for it.


Yeah. And a lot of times, you know, there's things on the internet, like with tinnitus, misophonia, hyperacusis, where they say there's no cure. And I always wanna, you know, make patients aware that just because there's no cure, meaning there's no medication you can take to completely get rid of it. That does not mean it cannot be managed. So that's what I really focus on is management strategies that there is hope. So don't do get down the rabbit hole on Google and get depressed about it. There are different ways we can help. Yeah.


Stay away from webMD and go to go see your audiologist. Wendy, thank you so much. Appreciate your time. Thank you. If you're in the Washington metropolitan area and you'd like to schedule an appointment with Hearing Doctors, click the link in the description or visit




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