The term “misophonia” literally means hatred of sounds. A recently identified disorder of the auditory central nervous system, individuals with misophonia experience extreme sensitivity to sounds that most of us naturally filter1.
Unfortunately for these individuals, harmless sounds can feel not only painful, but can evoke reactions such as anger and disgust. These sounds are sometimes called “trigger noises,” because they evoke a response by the nervous system2, and the response is not initially mediated by cognition.
Some researchers suggest that it is a reflexive response, and even suggest treating it as an aversive reflex disorder3. Others believe it is best treated with a combination of auditory retraining therapies1 designed to help patients habituate to innocuous sound and cognitive behavioral therapy, to help patients cope (through revising unhelpful thinking, teaching self-calming strategies, and helping them to practicing new behaviors that might help)4. Others point to the lack of sufficient research on the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of misophonia; they urge further research and caution against being too firm in our conclusions 5,6.
If you are a parent whose child has recently developed this condition, you might not know what is going on with your child. You might mistakenly think that they are looking for attention, or that they are misbehaving.
In addition, because this condition is relatively new, and because it isn’t routinely diagnosed or treated, your pediatrician might not know about it yet. There is a suggestion that they will know about it soon; a recent study of 483 undergraduate students found that 20% of the sample report clinically significant misophonia symptoms7.
If your child is sound sensitive, they should certainly receive a medical evaluation to rule out medical causes of their sound sensitivity. But if all else is looking normal, parents should consider taking their child to visit a specialist (such as an audiologist or neurologist who specializes in this condition).
Here are 7 warning signs that your child might have misophonia:
While information on etiology, diagnostic evaluation, and proper treatment continues to emerge, parents can look forward to learning more. Please visit my blog interviewing Jeffrey Gould on his creation of the film Quiet Please, due for upcoming release.