I discovered something while reading this Sunday’s paper. Someone wrote “Dear Abby,” talking about a disorder called misophonia. Those suffering from this may experience anger, the fight or flight response, and other troubles in reaction to certain sounds that most people don’t notice. They may avoid social interaction to spare themselves the anguish of hearing the noises that affect them adversely. Trigger sounds include, but aren’t limited to, other people’s chewing, whistling, breathing, gum chewing, yawning, and clocks ticking.
Most likely, misophonia, “hatred of sound,” has been troubling people for quite some time, but only discovered fairly recently as a malady. Due to the recent recognition, there aren’t a lot of statistics available, but in research (Palumbo, Alsalman, De Ridder, Song, & Vanneste, 2018) it was found that 60 percent of people who experience tinnitus, ringing or noises in the ear, have misophonia too. In a sample of college students, 20 percent were found to be troubled by oversensitivity to particular sounds.
A neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, Aage R. Moller, believes misophonia is related to physiological abnormalities in the area of the brain that that deals with processed sound. A British research team found trigger sounds caused increased sweating and heart rate in the sensitive individuals, but other alarming sounds, like a baby’s cry, didn’t affect them more than nonsufferers.
The condition seems to appear during late childhood or early teens and worsens with time. Being affected by one noise often expands to involve more sounds causing unpleasant reactions. Theories about misophonia are being proposed and investigated. There is so much more to learn.
Loud gum chewing has always annoyed me more than it should since I was a teenager. I never understood why. Who knew a chance reading of “Dear Abby” would set me on a path of discovery?
In writing, something like misophonia affecting a character can open up all kinds of story possibilities. It could be a precursor to an episode of precognition or the start of a mystery. It’s up to you.
Inquisitive minds can find some very fertile ground for weaving tales. You just need to be willing to look up information.
Here’s the links to the articles I read: