The longer you live, the less you know. I have always had “sensitive ears” — meaning that small sounds really drive me insane. That ear sensitivity can be helpful, though, in a radio career, or during audio production, because I can catch errors, and erroneous sounds, that others around me, miss. However, having “super hearing” is also a curse because you can hear dogs barking from far away, children crying two floors away, and every street sound echoes in your head all day, every day.
This week, I just happened to stumble upon the exact medical description of my Superpower Curse: Misophonia!
Misophonia, also known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, starts with a trigger. It’s often an oral sound — the noise someone makes when they eat, breathe, chew, yawn, or whistle. Sometimes a small repetitive motion is the cause — someone fidgets, jostles you, or wiggles their foot.
The one salve old age has brought me in my fight against Misophonia is tinnitus in my left ear — also probably caused by my radio, and hard audio, days — so the high-pitched “white-noise whooshing” in that ear tends to drown out the environmental sounds that crazify me.
I’ve often been caught muttering to myself, “It’s a good day when I can hear my tinnitus.” That means there are no annoying sounds to disrupt, and captivate, my attention, other than the immediate environment at hand.
When you have Misophonia, and you hear a new, random, sound — that noise must be identified, and if it isn’t, you keep listening until you figure it out — sometimes days are lost to the ether of the echo! Then, once you know the origin of the noise, and its purpose, your ear can “let it go” because the threat, and danger, level has been analyzed and, oftentimes, dismissed.
Even those not afflicted with Misophonia are annoyed by sounds they do not recognize; if you will be making strange noises, let your neighbors know! They’ll thank you for the consideration. “Hey, we’re drilling a new hole in the wall today. If you hearing something grating, or squealing against your wall, it’s me, and it’ll all be over in an hour.” You say that, you’ll be a hero in the hood!
I am not alone in my sensitive hearing! Judge Marilyn Milian of The People’s Court often mentions on her TV show her hearing sensitivity is off the charts, and that’s a relief to know others also suffer the ills of other ill-considered people, who make noise just to be heard, not known.
A cousin of mine is also Misophonic — I now know she, too, has had undiagnosed Misophonia, like me, all these years, because, as a child — she would often tell my mother to “stop scraping your teeth on your fork tines when you eat” and “stop snapping your gum, Wilma” and “please close your mouth when you chew. Gross!” It was such a relief to have my cousin go after my mother’s noisy mouth manners, without my intervention, because the sounds my mother made my entire life drove me insane, too. I understand my mother has dry mouth, and the sound THAT makes every time she speaks, is like a bomb going off in your head if you have Misophonia.
Deaf people can also suffer from Misophonia! Amplified environmental sounds with hearing aids makes it even worse. High-pitched sounds, and people laughing, can make some Deaf want to deafen themselves even more! It is quite common for the Deaf to only wear their hearing aids when absolutely necessary — all other times, the aids are off the ear — silence is golden! As well, Cochlear Implants also drive many Deaf to remove the magnetic devices from their skulls as often as possible, because all the new sounds are just too overwhelming for processing.
There’s nothing you can do to fix Misophonia — so you just find ways to cope, and muffle, the distracting sounds. Noise-cancelling headphones work great! White Noise machines also help mitigate the damage. Every night before I retire to my dreams, I place earplugs in my canals to block out the loudest annoying noises outside my window.
I find that “deafening” myself as much as possible during the day helps me deal with these randomized sound strictures. Building my own “wall of sound” with music, multiple televisions, several radios, and three white noise machines gives me comfort throughout the day.
Misophonia is manageable with some attention and forethought. You may have not realized you had Misophonia until today — and I know there are people in your life who may have made fun of your hearing sensitivity, or who mocked you, or who played noises extra loud just to annoy you — and I want you to know everything will be okay, because now you know, now you’ve “identified the sound,” and now you may move on, and deal with it, and have a better life with a new understanding about yourself!
If you have Misophonia, please leave a comment sharing your experiences, and discoveries, and let us all know how you deal with the everyday “sound” every day — without going off the cliff of reasonableness!