Young woman bothered by noise. Vocal Health

Misophonia: When Certain Sounds Are Intolerable

Are you irritated by the sound of chewing? Do mouth noises bother you more than most people?

If you’re an audio engineer, voice performer or involved in any kind of multimedia production, you can appreciate how noise can grate on your nerves and distract you from your work.

Creating Optimal Recording Environments

Many go to great lengths to prevent mouth noises when performing, even changing up their diet before a session, as well as wearing clothing that doesn’t ruffle or jewelry that clangs. This extends to avoiding strong scents and perfume, or cologne on set, all in effort to create an environment most conducive to facilitating great performances and making exceptional art.

Experience tells us that microphones are extremely sensitive and pick up (nearly) everything. Our ears also fall into that camp.

But for some people, particular sounds are not just annoying. They can actually come across as disgusting and produce severe reactions that lead to anger and even fear.

Enter Misophonia

Here’s an excerpt from how the Misophonia Institute defines misophonia:

“…a severe sensitivity to specific soft sounds and visual images. It also includes other forms of stimuli that cause an immediate extreme reaction. When a person hears the sounds, the person has a very strong emotional reaction such as hate, anger, anxiety, rage, and resentment. People who suffer with misophonia often report that they feel the person is intentionally making the sound, even though when they are calm and away from the sound, they acknowledge that the conclusion at that time was not accurate.

A person experiencing misophonia generally has excellent hearing. It is not a sensitivity to the volume of sound, but an emotional and physiological reaction to specific sounds. At first, it is generally the sounds of specific individuals that cause the reaction, but it usually spreads to the sounds made by others and to additional sounds. The chewing sound of a friend may be annoying, while the chewing sound of a parent elicits (forces automatically) a strong reaction and is intolerable.”

As you can imagine, an individual’s aversion to various sounds can deeply affect the way they interact with others and the world around them.

We’ve looked at vocal disorders before, and it is interesting to learn that hearing is also an area where our instrument (as a performer, that’s your entire body and as an engineer, it’s also your golden ears!) can be susceptible to extreme sensitivity.

Hot Topic: Misophonia in the News

Misophonia has been extensively covered in the news, including by well-known media, like Time Magazine. Be sure to watch their video or coverage from others on the topic (like CNN and Global News) to get a feel for what misophonia really is and how to recognize it.

Do You Have Greater Sensitivity to Sound?

Whether it’s just more heightened hearing or you can identify with misophonia, I would love for you to join the conversation.

Add a comment below!


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  • Avatar for Ryan
    February 10, 2017, 9:44 pm

    I have super ears so hearing people eat with their mouth open is maddening : )
    I look at them and think you must have heard about being civilized but oh no mouth slopping.
    Gross : )

  • Avatar for Kathy Birkett
    Kathy Birkett
    February 11, 2017, 1:13 am

    I was an audio engineer and trained at Fanshawe. I have (as do many in my family) exceptional hearing. When I was 19 it was tested at 22 khz and down to 30 hz, I think.

    I have what I call a strong startle response. It’s not necessarily the loudness of a sound but if my mind can’t identify it immediately, especially if it’s unexpected, then my body kind of panics, ducking or looking around frantically trying to find the source. To others, it usually just looks like I heard a very loud sound that they didn’t think was all that loud. My dad has that too.

    Interesting information on misophonia. I think the only sound that could qualify for me is chains being moved. It hurts my ears unlike anything else, and it immediately makes me angry. I have no idea why. 🙂

  • Avatar for April
    February 11, 2017, 2:37 am

    OMG YES! I didn’t realize there was a name for it – but people chewing with their mouth open – animals cleaning themselves, with the lick, lick, lick……just drives me absolutely batty! Good to know I’m not alone, but feel sorry for those with the same affliction….lol.

  • Avatar for John LIna
    John LIna
    February 11, 2017, 5:45 pm

    My misophonia, with my voice, is the whistling “s.” I’m trying to determine if I am overly sensitive to it or what? I listen for it in other VO’s and, although it is there, it doesn’t sound as offensive to me as does my own. Any thoughts on this or how to eliminate it.?

  • Avatar for Haley Froehlich
    Haley Froehlich
    February 16, 2017, 5:45 pm

    I’ve been dealing with misophonia for years. It’s something which people don’t normally consider, but it makes trying to live life normally extremely difficult.

    For example, getting together socially with people will almost certainly put you in a situation where you’ll suffer because of some sound they make, whether it’s shared food, or a nervous tapper, and you’ll have to find some way to cope with the extreme emotions that those sounds provoke without offending people. Or, I love movies, and now when I go to the theatre I try to go late into a show’s run so there are fewer people to be around with their popcorn and candy bags, and late at night. Most of the time, I still end up having to block out sound so I can make it through without just breaking down. Nobody wants to leave these kinds of situations feeling like they’ve had an extended panic attack.

    Misophonia sufferers know that the sounds other people make are normal, and that makes them worse, because we know that whatever is going wrong is on our end, and very few people care or believe that what’s going on to create the reactions is real. There just isn’t enough information available right now for sufferers to get help.

    However, interestingly, a study on the brains of misophonia sufferers vs. non-sufferers was recently published which could provide some helpful insight into how to deal with it in the future.

  • Avatar for Beth Glaspie
    Beth Glaspie
    February 22, 2017, 4:57 pm

    There is so much to be said for discovering that what one always thought was just a “quirk” (or manifestation of one’s general lack of tolerance) turns out to have a name…and fellow sufferers! I learned about misophonia sometime in the past year after a Google search yielded, and my life has changed. I have bionic hearing and would love to be able to put it to use helping to solve crimes so that my “blessing-and-a-curse” would not go to waste. Also wish there were something I could do about the misophonia, short of ear plugs, avoidance, and leaving a room during mealtime. I look forward to reading the article recently posted.

  • Avatar for Dave
    December 11, 2017, 12:08 pm

    OK hear we go… pun intended. Thank God there is a name for it. My ex fiance has witnessed me taking clocks off the walls and removing batteries because of the ticking in these cheap Walmart things when I am writing or concentrating. When I turn off all music, shut down the TV, and the only sound in the room is the ticking clock… it can grate on me like water dripping onto your forehead. I have no idea why. Something to do with counting and numbers and internal conversations. I think.

  • Avatar for Dave
    December 11, 2017, 12:18 pm

    The sound of someone trying to quietly eat cheese puffs or some snack food like pretzels or potato chips. Potato chips being eaten without a game on in the background or other room noise at a party for instance is kind of like launching grenades at random intervals. Definitely affects a writer. Just is disturbing to any internal thoughts or trains that are running from moment to moment. I have no idea why.

  • Avatar for Jill A Carlton
    Jill A Carlton
    December 31, 2017, 11:56 pm

    Aside from mouth noises, chewing, sucking, clicking etc… the thing that makes me stark raving lunatic furious is bass. Rolling down the street, or in a neighbor’s backyard, or while they’re washing their car, it makes me want to get out a bullhorn and scream at the top of my lungs, just so I can cause them a fraction of the physical pain it causes me.

  • Avatar for Keka Daniels
    Keka Daniels
    July 4, 2018, 11:39 am

    I have a terrible time with ‘mouth noise’ when doing auditions. I have tried….having a clean mouth, eating an apple (granny smith or otherwise), having a dirty mouth, using a bit of oil on my teeth, water, no water, gum, etc. Any other possible solutions or advice? (other than giving up, haha!)
    Thanks All!