WXTX Special Report: Please stop making that noise

WXTX Special Report: Please stop making that noise

COLUMBUS, GA (WXTX) – We all get annoyed by noises at times – a song on the radio we can't stand, maybe a friend's obnoxious laugh.

But what if certain sounds actually made you angry and unable to think about anything else?

Misophonia is a condition in which certain sounds can drive someone into a burst of rage or disgust.

But does this disorder really exist?  And is there a way to treat it? We take a look in our special report "Please Stop Making That Noise."

Paul Dion loves playing the keyboard in his spare time but he doesn't just tickle the ivories for fun. He has misophonia, and for him it's also an escape, an escape from sounds most of us probably don't even notice.

"Mouth noises like sneezing, coughing, chewing," Paul said. "Those are the types of things I can only hear for a few seconds before I react very strongly."

Audiologist Gwen Kandula says misophonia is different than more common sound sensitivity or a ringing in the ear.

"Misophonia is really thought of as a hatred of sound, but it's not just of any sound," Dr. Kandula said. "It's a very specific sound that we refer to as trigger sounds."

A person's reaction to trigger sounds can vary in severity from feeling anxious and tense, to full blown anger.

We hit the streets of Columbus to see what sounds really bother people.

"Nails across the chalkboard, that can be really aggravating."

"My husband has clicked his pen a handful too many times or I've noticed tapping a lot."

Dr. Kandula says research is lacking, and it's not known exactly what causes the condition.  The average age of onset is adolescence.

A person with misophonia has normal hearing. It's their reaction to certain sounds that's heightened.

"Some people...we've even seen some physical traits that can happen--their jaw will tighten, they'll tighten up when, when they have, when they have an experience, a trigger sound," Dr. Kandula said.

The most common trigger sounds for misophonia are bodily noises like chewing, finger tapping, even breathing.

Professor Aage Moller with the University of Texas at Dallas has been studying the brain for decades, and believes that a person with misophonia cannot help having a strong reaction to certain sounds.

"I do not think a person can change it, avoid it, or overcome it," Moller said.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure for misophonia but "exposure therapy" has shown some promise for patients.

"Eventually they get to a point where even if those sounds may still bother them somewhat, they don't have as an extreme a reaction as they did when it was in its full course," Dr. Kandula said.

Paul isn't getting any treatments at this time and says he has gotten to a point where he can basically manage his condition. He just hopes awareness and research continue to increase.

"I wish people would have an understanding that misophonia is real, it affects people very strongly, and it can really affect their life negatively," Paul.

Paul runs the website misophonia.com and also has a Facebook support group.

People in Columbus we talked to say they can understand how some sounds can enrage people, especially when someone makes a noise in a quiet place.

Join the conversation on social media by using #StopMakingNoise.

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