Certain sounds may make you uncomfortable, even send a shiver down your spine. But for other people, noises can trigger conditions like misophonia and hyperacusis. These conditions trigger a visceral reaction from people when they hear a certain sound.
What Is Misophonia?
Loud chewing or tapping can be irritating. For those with misophonia, these sounds can make them extremely angry, irritated, or anxious. Misophonia is a hatred of a specific sound or sounds. Researchers believe it develops between the ages of 9 to 13 and is more common in females.
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Panic or anger
- Increased heart rate or tightness in the chest
Responses differ among individuals with misophonia, and the same sound won’t trigger everyone. The part of the brain that is activated during trigger exposure is also responsible for fear and emotions.
What About Hyperacusis?
While misophonia causes an emotional reaction, hyperacusis results in physical pain in the ears. The degree of pain depends on the volume of the sound, so louder sounds will elicit a more painful reaction. The pain can manifest as pressure or loud ringing in the ears.
Episodes can last for long periods of time. Unlike misophonia, hyperacusis is usually linked to previous ear trauma like long-term noise exposure or physical damage.
Are Either Treatable?
Hearing aids can treat the side effects of these conditions. Devices now have sound therapy programs that help reduce the painful attacks of hyperacusis. Hearing aids also stimulate parts of your nervous and auditory systems to retrain the physiological reaction to triggers.
They can also be programmed to detect and block out trigger noises for those with misophonia. For example, if you hear someone chewing, hearing aids can cover the noise with a neutral sound like rushing water.
Misophonia can also be treated with counseling and controlled exposure to improve emotional reactions to sounds.