I cannot really remember when I started having auditory sensitivities to repetitive sounds. Not just any repetitive sound, but certain repetitive sounds made by living things. I work as a nurse, so the sounds of the call bell, IV pumps beeping and the hum of the air conditioners don’t bother me. However, the sound of someone chewing or breathing loudly or repetitively sniffing their nose and clearing their throat sounds like nails on a chalkboard to my misophonic brain, and I hate myself for it as much as people hate me (or at the very least annoyed by me) for having it.
What is misophonia?
I didn’t even know what misophonia was until I saw an article about it on social media and immediately thought “that’s me! I’m not crazy! There’s actually a name for what I have and there’s a reason why!!!” I am self-diagnosed (using the Internet of all things, oy) with misophonia.
The literal definition of misophonia is hatred of sound but a person with misophonia does not simply hate all sound. People with misophonia have specific symptoms and triggers and are sensitive to only certain sounds and are occasionally sensitive to visual triggers as well.
This problem/condition, I feel, is exacerbated by pregnancy — and I hope I’m right so that it’s not so bad after baby is born! It’s well documented that sense of smell is heightened during pregnancy (which can be equally as annoying), but I’m going out on a limb by saying that my sense of sound has also been heightened, because I’m driving myself insane!
How long have I had misophonia?
For as long as I can remember, in my adult life, it has always bothered me when people eat really loudly. Chewing with your mouth open, smacking your lips, slurping soup or coffee, crunching really loudly — I might as well get up and leave the table for fear of my utter annoyance be displayed on my face. The sound of teeth on utensils is extremely agitating to me too and if someone else is cooking and making repetitive tapping, scraping or stirring sounds I often have to leave the kitchen.
If someone has a cold and is continually sniffing the mucous back into their sinus cavities…it takes a lot of will power for me not to offer a complete stranger a Kleenex in a busy waiting room. If it’s children, I
ask them to tell them to blow their nose and ask them to please use a Kleenex next time. I have nearly kicked one of our cats and my mom’s dog across the room for licking/cleaning themselves profusely. Ridiculous, I know.
Unfortunately both of our kids are now mouth-breathers, and it’s not their fault. Our youngest has tonsils that are so grossly enlarged, he has no choice but to mouth-breath…but at least he’s quiet. Often he’ll hold his breath and then take a big breath of air, which is common for large-tonsilled children — this however doesn’t bother me, perhaps because I know he can’t help it and he’s only 3. Our oldest, however, has grossly enlarged adenoids, and he physically cannot breathe through his nose and he’s really really loud with his mouth-breathing. Like Darth Vader-loud. Well, loud to “Misophonia Me”, anyway.
I hate myself for getting annoyed at, and even angry, because of the sounds that people make that others normally wouldn’t flinch at. It’s taking a lot of willpower to not ask our son to “please breathe more quietly”. I don’t want him to remember me nagging and bugging him for something he really can’t control, and have ill feelings about me either because of my misophonia.
Is it that bad?
It’s bad for me, more annoying, than anything, but I know it could be worse. I have read stories and articles online of people that have to always have ear plugs and headphones with them to quiet or muffle the sounds that trigger their misophonia. That they violently lash out at the people making those annoying sounds they cannot stand. If this was a scientifically-proven spectrum, I’m very low on the scale — a level 2 or 3 at most out of level 10 (the worst), so reading that has made me feel infinitely better about it all. “At least I know it could be worse”, kind of a thing.
I can sit down at the supper table — the busier the better, actually. If it’s just my own little family I can notice the repetitive sounds that trigger my anger more noticeably, which is why I’ve never minded having the TV on while we eat as background noise to filter out the sounds of eating. Some people cannot even eat in public or with others at all and I’m thankful I’m not that bad, but I still hate it.
What do I do?
I want to be able to brush it off and I want to ignore it. I really think my pregnancy has heightened/worsened my annoyances of sound and I’m hoping that once baby comes it will go back to the way it was: bad, but not so noticeably bad and more tolerable. Reading more about it has made me thankful that I’m not as worse off as the people that have to wear earphones and have earplugs and leave a lot of situations to cope with their triggers.
For anyone who knows me personally in real life, I just want you to know that I do not want to feel like this. I hate myself for it. I feel guilty for it, and I’m doing the best I can to change my coping skills.
Further Reads on Misophonia
Do Chewing Sounds Make You Crazy? – Slate
Misophonia is a newly identified condition for people hypersensitive to sound – The Washington Post
What It’s Like to Have Misophonia – Hey Eleanor
When a Chomp or a Slurp is a Trigger for Outrage – NY Times