Misophonia - Selective Sensitivity to Sounds
Archived Q&A and Reviews
We are looking for information from families whose teens may be experiencing Misophonia, also known as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome. Our 12 year old daughter has been severely bothered for some time now by chewing sounds. She is having a difficult time remaining at the dinner table with us for meals. We would like to find help for her as it sounds like this condition just tends to get worse with time. Anyone have advice or experience with this? -Worried Parent
I don't know if I have any good solutions for you, but I had to respond to let you know you are not alone! Our daughter, who is now 22, has suffered from this since about your daughter's age. I didn't know it was a real condition until this past year. Sitting at the table was a often a misery for her and us. Some chewing, swishing and lip-smacking sounds would even send her into a rage. Terrible. She no longer lives with us so things have gotten a lot better. And she's old enough to know her sensitivities so she just removes herself when a situation is bad. Eating out at restaurants seems to be fine as there is enough background noise. The best we can come up with at home is to turn on music at dinner. When she was younger, we would sometimes allow her to eat at some distance from us, which seemed pretty weird, and/or to be dismissed from dinner as soon as she was done. The sad fact is a family meal just was super unpleasant for her. I'm sorry I only learned about the condition recently or I would have been more sympathetic. At the time we just thought she was being a pain. Good luck on your journey. Sympathetic
Try the occupational therapy department at Herrick hospital in Berkeley. Part of summit now I think. Make sure covered by insurance. They are expensive.
My 10 year old child has Misophonia, also known as Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome. This is a not commonly understood disorder, under researched and not as of yet treated or even accepted by the traditional medical establishment. You will have to google for more information, but I am desperately looking for other immediate Bay Area families going through this (or anyone who can help). In a nutshell, sufferers of Misophonia have a flight or fight response to a select few common everyday sounds, mostly related to eating or breathing. It commonly starts in late childhood and begins with a person the child is closest to, often mom, dad and siblings. The ''trigger'' noise causes a reflex response like you were stung by a bee that culminates within milliseconds in rage. The child can absolutely NOT control the reaction as it is a reflex to the stimulus. It generally strikes more girls than boys, but that's generally.
If you have a child who is acting up at the dinner table, constantly picking on family members for chewing and swallowing noises, mimicking those chewing noises, covering their ears, please contact me. I am looking to form an East Bay Support Group to primarily share efforts toward treatment and getting local medical personnel on board. I am not a medical professional, just a desperate parent. If your child suffers from Misophonia, I am quite sure you are also feeling very desperate too. Let's help one another!
I have this condition, as do my 4 brother and sisters. We all thought it was just some weird symptom that we somehow got because of our mom's obsessing about table manners when we were kids. Then several years ago, my sister-in-law (who has had to deal with my brother not being able to sit at the table with her) sent us all a link about misophonia. I can't tell you what a revelation this was. It's an actual thing??! It has a name?! It's so nice to not feel crazy.
I don't know how to make it go away. But, having spent the last 30 years dealing with it, I have some good strategies for managing the misery. First of all, tell your child what this is so he/she doesn't blame himself for being crazy, or blaming everyone else for the way they eat, breathe, etc. Secondly, don't make him stay in the presence of the sound. If he has to get up and leave the table, or wherever, let him. Forcing oneself to stay just increases the rage and desperation. For meals, it helps a lot to have some other sound happening as a distraction. I always put on music for meals with others. It can also help to have a few white noise machines, or fans around the house to use as needed. When out in public, especially when one is trapped around people eating or, god forbid, chewing gum (the misophonia's most hated person is the constant gum chewer) ear plugs are essential. I never go anywhere without ear plugs.
In other words, teach your child that this is his thing to manage. And then give him strategies. He can't go through life trying to make other people stop making the sounds they are making. One ends up an isolated, angry, people-hater that way. Misophonia Sufferer
You might look into what AbleKids in Fort Collins, CO can do for you. Friends have gotten fit with special hearing aids that reduce certain sounds to make their lives less frenetic. friend still heard
I had and still have remnants of this disorder. When I was a kid in the 80's there was no label for this, but my symptoms were exactly as you describe. It is so great to hear there is a label now, which will certainly validate this psychological disorder. When I was a kid, my father's chewing noises (and many of my mother's talking noises even) drove me crazy. My mother's noises stopped bothering me after a couple years, but my father's remain, even to this day as an adult. In retrospect, I believe, my brain was conditioned to 'freak out' when I heard the chewing noises (thanks to my mother's constant complaints of how my father chewed his gum). Inside I felt like I was going crazy and had to escape the sounds. My parents were aware of my problem, but did little to help me (from my perspective). Consequently I drove them crazy too -always trying to control the situation and my surroundings. I think the biggest mistake my father made was to not try to change his chewing habits for me by eating with his mouth closed. Even though my feelings were irrational and hard to understand, I think a little effort and empathy on his part would've gone a long way. The very few times I did see him try to alter his behavior were extremely comforting.
I never went to cognitive behavioral therapy -which I imagine is the preferred form of 'treatment' these days-and thus my brain is still wired to be sensitive to his chewing noises. Unfortunately for me, I have made a little bit of transference to my husband, who has chronic dry mouth- but fortunately, I haven't done this to my kids or any of my friends ever. Clearly there is an emotional component to the reaction. I have met one other person in my life who has this condition, and I think it was much worse for her as all eating noises bothered her, even those of strangers.
Anyway, my advice would be to take this situation VERY seriously with your child. It is agonizing to go through this. Get them into cognitive therapy and try your best to accommodate them. More and more exposure to the bothersome sounds will only make the condition and your relationship worse. Also, my other theory about the condition is that it is related to OCD, a coping mechanism for children whose lives feel unpredictable due to an unstable home life. My condition started as my parents were divorcing and my mother was becoming an alcoholic. I reiterate, control is a big issue here, and if I were you, I would do anything possible to help my child feel in control -predictable schedule, interaction, and ability to express when he or she is uncomfortable and actually listen and make changes. fellow sufferer
Noise sensitive! Solutions?
I am in my mid-thirties and am realizing just how acute my over sensitivity to noise has become over the past few years. I become anxious and very uncomfortable when there are multiple voices speaking or if there is a lot of ambient noise and I am so much quicker to get frustrated in those situations. I am the mother of two young ones, working only part time, which means noise is a constant in my life. My question is whether there is anything I can do about it. I'm not willing to wear ear plugs when I have my sons' friends and parents over for play dates or for dinner parties (at least not yet) and can't see myself using headphones to take my littlest one to the play gym. Any other ideas? Shhhhhh!!!!!
Well, my first take is you have a lot of stress in your life, which can make one hyper sensitive to noise. If that is true, you might find taking magnesium very helpful as it does seem to help kids who get overwhelmed (autistic and ADD, for example). Magnesium can be a relaxer in itself. Usually 4-500 mg twice daily in the form of malate or glycinate works well without causing any loose stool (as citrate form does).
Incidentally, kidney energy supports hearing and the adrenals sit atop the kidneys. So, you may find adaptogenic herbs useful. Some of my favorites include rhodiola, ashwagandha, and holy basil/tulsi.
Loss of ability to hear well in groups, however, is also a possible sign of hearing loss. In that case, I hope you can get your hearing checked (free at Costco although a long wait to get in). From what I have read and learned, one needs to intervene quickly if you are losing hearing. Nori
Your post immediately made me wonder if you might have sensory integration issues. Our 5 year old son had, among other sensory issues, a very strong fear/aversion to loud noises. Automatic toilets in public restrooms were one of the worst things for his ears.
When we finally got him diagnosed as having sensory integration issues by an Occupational Therapist, we started working with high quality headphones and specially modulated CDs which helped to literally exercise the inner ear. Turns out that people who are highly sensitive to sounds (perhaps this is you, too) may have an inner ear that is, in laymans terms, ''stuck'' open. The specially modulated CD helps to exercise your ears so that they are better regulated and will more easily close when you encounter loud sounds.
To discuss this further, I would highly recommend Anne Irving of Full Circle Development in Oakland (near the DMV on Claremont Ave.) She can be reached at 510-725-0162. She is a lovely human being as well as being a great OT who works with people of all ages. Please tell her I sent you! Caryn