The Buzz on Misophonia – Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome
On Sunrise this week there was a discussion about being annoyed by different sounds such as chewing, breathing or ticking clocks.
Callers were asked the question, “do you find the sound of people chewing loudly drives you insane? Or that someone’s laugh really sets you on edge?”
Why do these sounds annoy some people and not others?
Those who suffer from this condition are considered to have a disorder called misophonia, also known as ‘selective sound sensitivity syndrome.’ Early research suggests it might be caused by a hyperconnectivity between the auditory and limbic system, a part of the brain responsible for generating emotions.
In fact misophonia is a form of sensory integration disorder. Naturally, the job of the brain is to tune out excess stimuli in order for us to function. The brain receives billions of stimuli per second and it is our ability to inhibit many of these stimuli, and direct our attention only to what is useful, that allows us to perform normally in our daily lives.
Misophonia is related to hyperacusis, which is excess sensitivity to sound. The difference is that hyperacusis is more related to physical intolerance of noise whereas misophonia is more specifically the emotional response. Therefore it is more closely related to limbic involvement and involuntary, strong emotional responses.
Very little is known about treating sound sensitivity disorders. Like an involuntary tic, or tinnitus, they constitute an automatic neural response or trigger that we want to turn off.
In order to turn off this type of involuntary reaction, the best way is to recondition the surrounding systems, in other words our whole auditory response to sound. In this way, as the overall relationship to and experience of sound is massaged back into more balanced and normal function, the over reactivity to certain tones and frequencies becomes less problematic.
It’s easy to understand this if you think of a facial tic. Stress related, and due to over-reactivity of certain neural pathways, if you were to regularly massage the whole face and restore relaxation and good tone to all the facial muscles, it is easy to imagine that the facial tic would be likely to stop.
We can do the same thing for our auditory system with Sound Therapy. The brilliant method Dr Tomatis devised, where the middle ear muscles are forced to extend their movement and responsiveness with certain patterns of changing tones within the music, and the thorough workout this then gives to the entire auditory system, also helps to settle and normalise links between the auditory system and the brain.
For this reason Sound Therapy has proved one of the most effective treatments for midophonia, hyperacusis and tinnitus, all conditions related to a learned pattern of overactivity in the auditory system.