What Do Teachers Know About Misophonia?

New research reveals that teachers lack knowledge of misophonia.

Posted Aug 27, 2019 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

Courtesy of Pexels
Source: Courtesy of Pexels

Written by Ameya Calvocoressi with Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout

We are continually faced with problems related to the “belief” that misophonia is a real disorder. We are also faced with the unfortunate reality that many doctors, employers, teachers, and even friends and family members don’t understand the disorder.

We struggle with this as individuals and as parents. For parents, a particular problem is getting accommodations in school for their misophonic child. This is also true of college students and adults returning to school to pursue further education.

Recently, Dr. Ali Danesh contacted me to tell me about his (and his colleagues) new research. I feel this study is of great importance to all of us. Inspired by a patient he worked with, Danesh (and colleagues) set out to better understand teachers’ levels of knowledge in regard to misophonia.[1]

Specifically, in Porcaro, Alavi, Gollery, and Danesh’s 2019 study, "Misophonia: Awareness and responsiveness among academics," the authors surveyed 686 undergraduate instructors drawn from six state universities in Florida to investigate their knowledge and perceptions of misophonia, as well as their readiness to make classroom accommodations for students with misophonia.

While this study is specific to college students, it provides a framework in which researchers can help assess teachers across grade school through college. Assessing teachers’ knowledge of misophonia, as well as their willingness to make accommodations, is integral to those dealing with the disorder.

These survey questions provided participants with a definition of misophonia and prompted them to indicate their knowledge of misophonia, their past experiences with students’ disclosures of misophonia symptoms, and their attitudes towards misophonia.

Participants’ attitudes towards misophonia were assessed through their reported levels of agreement (ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”) with general statements about the disorder (i.e., “Misophonia makes no sense to me,” “Misophonia should be taken seriously,” “Misophonia is ‘in the head’ of the individual,” etc.) and statements about their personal willingness to provide classroom accommodations (i.e., “I will change my behavior if the behavior is unbearable for the student with Misophonia,” “Eating in class will not be allowed if chewing noises disrupt a student with Misophonia,” “I will allow proctored exams if student has officially been authorized to receive accommodations,” etc.).

The authors then analyzed the relationships among participants’ knowledge of misophonia, their past experiences with students’ disclosures, and their attitudes towards misophonia. 

Given misophonia’s lack of widespread recognition within the medical community, it likely comes as no surprise to most sufferers (and their loved ones) that the authors found that only 18.4 percent of participants reported having any knowledge of misophonia, and only 2.3 percent reported any personal experience of a student disclosing their misophonia symptoms.

Notably, the authors reported significant relationships between participants’ knowledge of misophonia, their past experience with student disclosures, and their attitudes towards misophonia; in other words, the instructors who were knowledgeable and/or had any experience of student disclosure were more likely to state that misophonia should be taken seriously and that it is not simply “in the head” of the individual experiencing it.

The authors also found significant predictive effects of participants’ perceptions of misophonia as something to be taken seriously and as something “in the head” of the individual on their willingness to make classroom accommodations, in that instructors were more likely to make classroom accommodations if they believed that misophonia should be taken seriously and/or believed that it is not just “in the head” of the sufferer.

Porcaro et al.’s findings (2019) provide heartening evidence for what many of us have likely observed—both that a lack of education on misophonia is often the most formidable barrier to its being regarded with compassion and that, once educated, individuals often want to be helpful to patients with misophonia.

While the authors’ report of misophonia knowledge within their sample indicates that there is still much work to be done in terms of misophonia advocacy, their results suggest that we have identified a meaningful first step in the classroom.

For more information on misophonia, please see: 

References

[1] In addition to acknowledging the importance of this study, I would also like to thank and acknowledge Ameya Calvocoressi for her detailed analysis and write-up of the article.   

Porcaro, C.K., Alavi, E., Gollery, T., & Danesh, A.A. (2019). Misophonia: Awareness and  responsiveness among academics. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 32(2), 107-118.