What is misophonia?

There are times when chewing, pen tapping, or other little noises bothers us to no end. For those with a condition known as misophonia, however, those sounds are more than just annoying — they can be unbearable.

First named as a condition in 2001, “misophonia” is the ancient Greek word for “hatred of sound.” Also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, it’s a genuine abnormality of the brain with both psychological and physiological symptoms. In a recent study, MRI scans showed a marked difference in the brain structure of those who have misophonia and in the way their brains react when hearing trigger sounds.

This hypersensitivity to sound causes a fight-or-flight response in people with the condition that can interfere with their daily lives. They may feel anxiety, rage, and panic upon hearing triggering sounds. This can lead to avoidance, isolation, and depression.

How common is misophonia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of misophonia?

The best way to describe what happens when someone with misophonia hears or sees a trigger may be to think about what it’s like for most people to hear nails on a chalkboard. Your skin prickles, your nerves flare, and you just want it to stop immediately. For most, that occurs just once in a while. People with misophonia, however, may experience that sensation on a daily basis because of sounds other people hardly notice.

If you have a mild reaction, you might feel:

  • Anxious
  • Uncomfortable
  • The urge to flee
  • Disgust

If your response is more severe, the sound in question might cause:

  • Rage
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Panic
  • Fear
  • Emotional distress
  • A desire to kill or stop whatever is making the noise
  • Skin crawling
  • Suicidal thoughts

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes misophonia?

Researchers don’t know yet what causes misophonia.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for misophonia?

There are many risk factors for misophonia, such as:

It also appears to be more common in people who have tinnitus. Tinnitus is a different disorder in which you hear sounds, like a ringing in your ears, that no one else can hear.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is misophonia diagnosed?

Because the syndrome was only officially recognised in 2001, many medical practitioners are still either unaware of it or inexperienced in understanding or diagnosing it. Still, it’s important to seek help and to encourage your GP to identify a consultant who understands the syndrome in order to get a diagnosis. This alone can prove helpful to people with the condition.

How is misophonia treated?

Although there’s currently no cure, and a really effective treatment is a long way from being discovered, there are some therapies and solutions that can help. Some people have reported short-term relief from treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT).

Treatment options are being explored in the US, and there are some behind-the-ear headphones available there that are virtually invisible and which play white noise at low levels as a distraction from the main triggers, but these are currently expensive.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage misophonia?

There are self-help measures people with the condition can try, including finding ways of masking the sounds by wearing open-ear headphones, which are not noise-cancelling, meaning normal conversation can still be heard, playing ‘white noise’, by running an extractor fan in the area where you eat, allowing the person to avoid family mealtimes if they (or you) are experiencing great distress or playing white noise on a continuous loop. None of these solutions will eliminate triggers, but they should help to lessen the effect of them on the person with misophonia.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 14, 2017 | Last Modified: December 15, 2017