man with fingers in ears
John Rensten / Getty Images

Misophonia, also called selective sound sensitivity syndrome, is a poorly understood condition that literally means "hatred of sound." People with misophonia react in an extreme and often emotional way to certain "trigger" sounds. Reactions range from annoyance, running away or even rage with some individuals lashing out violently.


While misophonia is sometimes compared to another condition called hyperacusis, misophonia triggers tend to be soft everyday sounds, in fact, many of them seem to involve bodily functions.

The following are common triggers:

  • chewing
  • lip smacking
  • gulping
  • slurping
  • fingernail tapping
  • fingernail clipping
  • breathing
  • sniffing
  • snorting
  • sneezing
  • yawning
  • nose wheezing
  • nose whistling
  • whistling
  • clicking
  • dishes clattering or spoons scraping on dishes
  • dogs barking

It is interesting to note that in the case of bodily functions such as yawning or lip-smacking the sound often only triggers a response when it is produced by another person. Like hyperacusis, many people with misophonia also suffer from tinnitus.

Responses to Trigger Sounds

The response an individual with misophonia has to these triggers is often called "autonomic" and sometimes compared to the body's "fight or flight" response. The fight or flight response is also called the acute stress response. It is the body's natural way of responding to a situation it deems as threatening. Our body automatically begins to release the hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine which causes our heart rates and breathing rates to increase.

It also causes our muscles to tighten and our blood vessels to constrict, our pupils dilate and we become more aware of our surroundings and more alert. This the body's way of preparing us to respond to the stimulus it deems as threatening. It is unclear why a person with misophonia might respond in a similar manner to a triggering sound but researchers believe this response is involuntary.

People with this chronic condition often report feelings of panic, rage, and anxiety in response to triggering noises.

Those who suffer from misophonia may go to great lengths to avoid being exposed to triggering noises. They may isolate themselves socially, or invent interesting coping mechanisms. Some may wear headphones or produce other noises to drown out triggering sounds.

A Poorly Understood Condition

As previously mentioned, misophonia is a poorly understood, and under-researched, condition. The term misophonia did not arise to describe the condition until the year 2000, although the condition was described much earlier as selective sound sensitivity syndrome. Awareness of the disorder has increased since several news stories aired nationally on the disorder in 2011. Shortly thereafter, TV host Kelly Ripa said on television that she believes she also suffers from misophonia.

Despite increased awareness of the disorder, research on misophonia is very limited with most information coming from extremely small studies and case reports.

Epidemiological evidence is also lacking. Some studies suggest that the incidence of misophonia is much higher than professionals have previously thought but many people only have mild symptoms for which they do not seek treatment.

As of 2011 there was no established diagnostic criteria for misophonia, however, proposed diagnostic criteria was published in 2013 and researchers suggested that the disorder be classified as a separate and discrete psychiatric disorder. There are currently no established treatments for misophonia.


Colorado Tinnitus and Hearing Center. Misophonia. Accessed: September 30, 2014 from http://www.tinnitusandhearing.com/misophonia

Misophonia.com. What is Misophonia? Accessed: September 30, 2014 from http://www.misophonia.com/symptoms-triggers/

NCBI. Misophonia: physiological investigations and case descriptions. Accessed: September 30, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3691507/

The Pharmaceutical Journal. Misophonia awareness. Accessed: September 30, 2014 from http://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/blogs/misophonia-awareness/11100053.blog

Psychology Today. Misophonia: Enraged by Everyday Sounds. Accessed: September 30, 2014 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-babble/201305/misophonia-enraged-everyday-sounds

Psychology World. Stress: Fight or Flight. Accessed: September 30, 2014 from http://www.psychologistworld.com/stress/fightflight.php

Continue Reading