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Misophonia


Definition

This is a form of sound intolerance. In this case, it is a severe intolerance to certain sounds in the environment, or to specific noises that have the same intensity or volume as other sounds easily tolerated by the person. The sounds considered disturbing are therefore not too loud and dangerous for hearing, or do not interfere with communication, but provoke a strong aversive reaction in the person with misophonia. Intense emotions are then experienced, such as anxiety, anger, irritability or even profound disgust.


Often, the aversive reaction is triggered when someone around the person produces the disturbing noise, whereas when the person makes the sound, no reaction follows. Although the person with misophonia may be aware that the reaction is excessive when exposed to the specific noise, it is uncontrollable and automatic, and the emotion felt is very real.


People with misophonia may therefore withdraw from certain situations for fear of being exposed to disturbing sounds. Conflicts may also arise.


Prevalence

Misophonia may affect up to 3% of the general population, with symptoms appearing during the pre-adolescent years, around 9-12 years of age.


Types of sound

Many sounds can be considered disturbing and cause aversive reactions. It is then possible to separate them into certain categories:

1. Body sounds or sounds caused by the body

  • For 81% of people with misophonia, these are sounds associated with "eating", such as chewing and swallowing.

  • In 64% of people, these are sounds associated with breathing or snoring.

2. Repetitive sounds

  • The "click" of a pencil being repeatedly opened and closed.

  • Tapping a pencil on a table.

  • The phoneme "s" sustained over time.

  • The sound of keys on a keyboard.

3. Other (almost exclusively) human sounds

  • Beard scratching

  • Throat clearing

  • Sniffing


Causes

The exact causes underlying the onset of misophonia in an individual are not very well known or completely understood. However, it would appear that both the auditory and limbic systems are involved. The limbic system is involved in the control of certain emotions. Misophonia seems to be more prevalent in people with certain conditions, such as :

  1. Sensory processing problems

  2. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

  3. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  4. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

  5. Brain injury


Recommendations

Given that misophonia can, in many cases, be associated with a psychological condition such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder, a multidisciplinary approach is recommended. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy with a psychologist could help you better understand the thoughts underlying your reactions and try to break these harmful associations.


Desensitization interventions are known to be quite effective for misophonia. Controlled, repeated exposure to the sounds or noises that trigger the reaction is recommended. It is suggested that these exposures take place in a pleasant context, with the aim of undoing automatic negative associations. This involves creating a plan for gradual exposure to aversive sounds, increasing the exposure time.


Noise generators can also be used to divert your attention from disturbing noises in the environment, allowing you to concentrate more on the sounds transmitted to your ears. The aim is to get you back to your daily activities. You could also use headphones to play the music you like at a reduced volume so that it doesn't interfere with your communications. The aim is for you to be exposed to the noises that cause an aversive reaction at the same time as the pleasant ones, so as to reduce this reaction.

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