Disclaimer :: By no means am I a medical professional. This article is written from my personal perspective as a mom of multiple kids, a spouse to a very social person, and an employee in a cubicle setting who has learned to cope with having extremely sensitive ears.
Does the person tapping her pen incessantly two desks down from you drive you mad? Does thinking about your kids chomping on chips in the car give you hives? Does simply the sight of someone smacking bubble gum make your heart rate rise?
Do not fret — you’re not alone! I am one of those people easily triggered by certain noises, to the point that I’ve made lifestyle choices to accommodate my auditory needs. And there is a term for such a condition: Misophonia.
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What Is Misophonia?
Technically speaking, a person with misophonia experiences an emotional or physical response to common sounds most people don’t even notice. According to the Harvard Health Blog, examples such as breathing, yawning, tapping, or chewing can cause a fight-or-flight reaction. People with the disorder can feel anger, anxiousness, and a desire to escape.
There are not many studies on misophonia, but it is loosely categorized as a mental health disorder. An article featured in Nature included a study in which patients were prompted with video and audio clips of various scenarios. People in the study demonstrated emotional changes, heart rate fluctuation, and neural responses by the patients.
With this in mind, please seek professional medical assistance if you feel that your experiences related to misophonia or other issues are impacting your day-to-day well-being. There is no shame in asking for help. In fact, it takes a lot of courage!
Coping with Misophonia
In the world we live in, people have little control over the volume of the music in a restaurant or who ends up sitting next to you on an airplane. But there are certainly some things we have a stake in, like having background noise in your bedrooms at home or wearing headphones at work when you’re able.
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Here are a few of my personal suggestions when it comes to drowning out or muffling noises:
- Designate some activities as “special” with someone else and not with you. For example, my children will only chew gum with my spouse. I do not allow gum in my home, my car, etc., but it is free reign in Dad’s car or when they’re out and about without me. And I am 100 percent okay with it!
- Download a White Noise app to have handy when traveling or spending the night not at your home. I utilize an app every time I sleep at a hotel, and it’s been a game changer.
- Inquire about noise-reducing ear pods. I was recently inundated with social media ads featuring these more-attractive looking ear plugs, and I’ve decided to give them a whirl during road trips, intimate meals or meetings in small spaces, and the movie theater. I can attest: You can still hear plenty, just at a reduced volume.
- Invest in a good air purifier or sound machine. In my case, we have air purifiers in each bedroom. I have them on low every single night. If I’m working from home, I’ll turn one on to drown out the distracting noises from the neighborhood.
- Practice deep breathing. It’s not simple, but practice makes everything a little easier. Having the ability to control my breathing has greatly improved my anxiety.
- Play background music during meals when at home. Not only has this technique assisted with my general anxiousness around mealtime, but it’s exposed my children to a wide variety of music types.
The most important thing to remember about noise sensitivity is to give yourself some grace. We live in a noisy world whether we like it or not!
How have you coped with anxiousness surrounding specific social or auditory situations?