If the sound of bread-crunching, apple-munching, and chewing-gum-popping typically induces a hot rage, this is why. And you’re not alone.
Lunch should be a time where we can switch off from the day and focus on the lovelier things in life. But for many, lunchtime can become intolerable; especially if you share a space with a noisy, chewy, crunching, slurping eater.
Misophonia (or ‘sound-rage’) is the official name given to any negative emotions, thoughts, and physical reactions triggered by specific sounds. It was once thought that noise-related outbursts of anger were irrational and unwarranted, but up-to-date studies published in Current Biology has shed light on the, ahem, distasteful condition.
Using MRI scanners, scientists were able to observe the changes that take place in the brain when someone is subject to uncomfortable noises like chewing (just thinking of these noises as I type is sending my body into an uncomfortable spasm). Researchers used two groups of people: one who were subjected to neutral sounds like rain and traffic, while the other group listened to sounds considered generally unpleasing such as the sound of babies crying, screaming, breathing, and, of course, chewing.
Scientists were able to determine that misophonic’s shared what they call “abnormal functional connectivity” in parts of the brain associated with memory; which triggers the thoughts and physical reactions associated with uncomfortable sounds.
“We think that misophonia may be heavily connected to recalling past memories because people with misophonia have had very bad experiences,” the study’s lead researcher Dr. Sukhbinder Kumar of the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University told the New York Times.
It’s not me, it’s you
What’s weird is that microphonics weren’t bothered by the sounds if they made them, but only became agitated if other people nearby made them. What’s more, people with misophonia don’t just hate food. For some, the same reaction can be introduced by the sound of pen-clicking, knuckle cracking, lip-smacking, or tooth-sucking.
There isn’t a clear understanding of what exactly causes the condition, but it is thought that misophonia might have both psychological and physiological roots. Maybe now you won’t feel as bad for lashing out at that guy on the bus eating a packet of crisps REALLY loudly. You were being totally rational, of course.
Spare a thought for fellow sound-ragee’s this lunchtime.