What sounds drive you crazy?

Photo credit: Liza Summer

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

The BBC reports on a study done by researchers at King’s College London and the University of Oxford showing that about 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from misophonia.

What is misophonia? It is a poorly understood condition in which listeners find certain sounds unbearable. A more technical definition is ” Misophonia is a condition whereby a person feels a strong emotional or physical reaction to a common sound – usually made by another person – which other people don’t notice.” A very common bothersome sound is that of someone else chewing.

When I write about auditory disorders, I usually mention hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and hyperacusis (a sensitivity to loud sounds that may be perceived as painful at levels that don’t bother others). I’m not sure if misophonia qualifies as an auditory disorder, which is why I don’t include it with auditory disorders, but from talking with those who have it, I’m convinced it’s a real biological response. It may be linked to primitive emotional processing systems in the brain that in those individuals are also linked to auditory processing pathways in the brain. There have been several recent reviews in the scientific literature, one of which also reported a 20% prevalence. At least one study seems to support a biological basis for misophonia.

I hope the new report, documenting the high prevalence of misophonia, will stimulate further research into this condition.

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